Site of the 88 Olympics, Nakiska has been a semi-regular part of our winter experience as we have been raising children because it is very close to Calgary and has a good enough variety of terrain to keep kids occupied until they are at the black level. In particular I love the Monster Glades for transitioning a developing skier from blue or advanced blue to black because the trees force shorter turns and decision making, but yet the glades are still easily negotiable by an intermediate level skier who is ready to step it up. The other advantage use to be relatively short lift lines. Usually the one quad could handle the crowd at the bottom and they have a second they would open as crowds warranted. The new quad at the top is seldom lined up more than a few minutes deep.
The main drawback has usually been the lack of natural snow, they make snow in abundance and are expert groomers but on busy days of course the corduroy wears out and you have extremely buffed icy sections.
However, this year mother nature and human ingenuity have combined to ruin this little diamond of child training. Here's why.
Mother nature's part is that she hasn't been good to them in terms of weather, they are way behind on their snow making meaning many runs that should have been ready late November to mid-December are still waiting for the guns. They were off to a good start but it all melted.
But the real tragedy was a human ingenuity problem. This year they offered a special where you could get an annual pass for $200 individual, $500 for a family. I heard from an employee they ended up selling 35.000 of these passes. If my math is right that means they brought in about $7 million pre-season. Not bad for a hill this size but not enough to float the boat considering they have to put down man-made on most of the hill.
But what that has led to is complete over-crowding on weekends or holidays. They are getting up to 5,000 skiers a day. The facilities just aren't up to the numbers. You have to line up to go to the washroom (hope you don't have to go bad), the lodge is simply overwhelmed at lunch, the service in the restaurant is 40 minutes plus if you can score a table, and the lift lines remind one of the base at Vail. But unfortunately for Nakiska, you can't work your way around the back as you can at Vail, the only lift with shorter lines is the Gold chair at the top and there isn't any snow up there at the moment. We did one run down the glades and now my son's brand new skis need repair. And they didn't even have a sign warning about the conditions. They are still advertising +100 cm of snow but I can tell you the Glades were all rocks and stumps.
So it's sad. Nakiska is a great family resort and a great place to teach kids to ski, but this year it's off limits on the weekends unless you are one of the pass-holders, and even then I don't think you'll enjoy it as much as you could have without the promotion.
We'll be skiing Lake Louise the remainder of the season and using the Rock Garden as the transition run for our son.