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Little Smoky Ski Area: a fun ski getaway in northern Alberta

My skis swished and chattered over the groomed snow on the run. It became a rhythm as I whooshed down the hill at the Little Smoky Ski Area — swish as I let the skis run, chatter as I leaned into the edge to switch direction. Cool wind blew my bangs back from my face and my legs let me know I hadn’t used these muscles in two years. It felt good—the speed, the snow, the skis.

Day Trip at the Little Smoky Ski Area in Northern Alberta

Little Smoky Ski Area—one of those river valley hills with one T-bar—is about half an hour from our place. On the weekend, when my mom came to visit, we left Sunshine with a babysitter for the day and drove out to check it out. I haven’t been skiing in about two years. Last year I was pregnant and this year, it’s been hard to find a way to go downhill skiing with a baby. Even with a hill so close to our home, downhill skiing requires a day away.

Views from the top of the Little Smoky Ski Area

Towards the middle of the morning, I chased my mom from the top of the T-bar across to the top of the Little Smoky Ski Area. As she pushed herself onto the slope, I paused to get my pole straps on my wrist. From the top of the ski hill, we had a great view across the treeless poplars to the river valley and beyond. Brilliant blue skies stretched above us and the sun sparkled off the snow, making me glad I’d remembered my sunglasses.

A man watching us shouted at me, “She’s kicking your butt!”

I laughed, glancing down the hill to where she had slowed and was looking back up for me. I shouted back at the man, “That’s my mom and I’m used to it!” Then I pushed off, bombing straight down the hill to catch up to her.

My mom skiing down a run at the Little Smoky Ski Area in northern Alberta.

For most of the morning, we were able to ski straight onto the T-bar, as Little Smoky Ski Area was quiet. We soon recognized most of the other skiers or snowboarders on the hill.

At noon, we ate sandwiches in the chalet and then hit the slopes again. The snow was beginning to soften under the early spring sun, and more skiers had loosened it up. There were also longer line-ups at the T-bar. Mom and I finally ventured onto the “black diamond” hills—which are, of course, relative to the Little Smoky Ski Area and would probably only be rated a “blue” or “green” in the mountains.

My husband snowboarding at Little Smoky Ski Area in northern Alberta.

Mid-afternoon, my husband traded his snowboard in for a pair of skis. For as long as I’ve known him, he’s snowboarded, and done much better at it than I ever did. He always told me he didn’t like skis because they got crossed, so a snowboard was easier. After a few runs down the green hill to warm up to the skis, he did the blue hill and then chased my mom and I down the black diamond hills.

While we’d been avoiding one particularly steep section of the hill, scooting around a less-vertical section to the right, he went straight down it. By the end of the day, he was boasting I couldn’t keep up to him.

Bonnie Way at the Little Smoky Ski Area in northern Alberta.

I called home at noon and then mid-afternoon to check on Sunshine. The babysitter said she was playing happily, so I said we’d ski until the Little Smoky Ski Area closed. We did just that, going until the lift attendant warned us, “Last run up.”

As we unstrapped our skis at the car, muscles screamed. I stretched and then relaxed into the soft, comfy seat. At home, Sunshine wasn’t even that desperate to see us—she came crawling over the say hi, but then went back to the babysitter a few minutes. I’d worried a bit about leaving her for seven hours, but if she’s that unconcerned about it, we may do it again.

Someday, I’ll teach my kids to downhill ski. I’ll ski bigger hills at faster speeds. Maybe we’ll even plan a family ski vacation. But for today, the Little Smoky Ski Area was a fun getaway from my usual duties as a stay-at-home mom.

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