Finally, after five years living in the Edmonton Area I visited one of the local ski areas.
We were invited to join the neighbours for their kids school ski night. It was a weird drive to the ski hill, in all my past experiences driving to a ski hill involved driving towards a mountain. Not so much this time.
We headed out of the city towards Rabbit Hill Ski Area. We drove through several new neighbourhoods in Edmonton, past some box stores, and into farm land. Flat, flat, farm land. Eventually I spotted it. A small steep rise with bright lights illuminating it. Just one small hill though. And then we started driving down from the flats into the river valley.
It's not a bad hill, from the parking lot you can pretty much see it all. Half a dozen runs and an equal amount of lifts. As far as a hill where there are no mountains it looked not bad really.
We didn't need rentals, but it seemed that the staff at the hill managed to get a large number of kids and adults through the rental pick up stage quite quickly. What I didn't understand was their mass lesson concept. They cycled all the beginners through a short intro to skiing. It seemed to involve how to walk in skis, how to get on (and off) the magic carpet, and some kind of instruction on how to go down the hill. Turning instruction involved "turn your hips".
The Kid and I headed up the triple chair for a few runs on our own. The smell of the gas powered lift brought back some serious memories of working the t-bars at Panorama Mountain Resort over a decade ago. From the chair you can see the entire hill. Terrain Parks, the beginner area and a few of their short but well groomed cruiser runs.
At the top of the triple. Off to the right of this is the t-bar and a "black diamond" run - it seemed to be the same slope as the one off the tow rope at the bottom, and the blue run off the triple.
Rabbit Hill has 1 triple chair, 1 t-bar (yay for teaching The Kid how to use one of those!), two magic carpets, and two tow ropes. Yes tow ropes. Worst ski lift option ever.
End up bailing on the towrope after my skiing partner starting losing grip and sliding backwards. That combined with a slip in the parking lot = lots of ice required when I got home.
Judging from the t-bar and the bottom tow ropes they must get a lot of people on the hill at different times of the year. Both lifts are a double set up - two t's and two ropes side by side taking people up the same slope. It was weird.
Also weird, both magic carpets end at the same place, with a space of about three meters between the two it was nothing but chaos. The Kid wanted to ski through the little terrain park off one of the carpets but gave up after realizing that the unload weirdness causes collisons and backlogs at the top, which causes the lift operator to stop the carpet. A lot.
Rabbitt Hill is one of the options for us to get a ski pass at next year. They run a program called "Extreme Adventure Club" a full day skiing at the hill and according to some families that I know, gets the kids in the terrain park (which is what The Kid wants). Could I spend an entire day, or even half a day at that hill? Undecided. It's aleast a 30 minute drive, so some thought will go into that for sure.
Overall, it is a good beginner hill, it's good to see the different lift options to people learn them all (aside from Poma/Platter lifts) before hitting the mountain. Early March I think we head to Snow Valley with The Kid's school, so watch for that review!