Pass Powderkeg makes it a pleasure for skiers and riders to learn the ropes
“I can almost connect my turns!” first-time snowboarder, Ivy Folkhard says, grinning from ear to ear. She’s been on a snowboard for little more than an hour, but has already mastered the basics. Edward Ford, Pass Powderkeg Snow School Instructor extraordinaire, gives her a high five before checking on the rest of the family. While Cohen, 8, works hard to keep up to his 10- year-old sister, Berkeley, 5, laughs as she falls in the snow again. “You’re doing that on purpose!” Edward teases.
Parents, Lani and Tyler are happy to see the kids enjoying themselves. Tyler has snowboarded before, but it’s Lani and the kids’ first time. With one lesson, they’ve progressed from the training area to the tow rope, and learned to skate, heel slide, stop, use the tow rope, and get up. Ivy and her parents have also started doing heel side turns. When I ask Lani how it’s going, she candidly reports, “It was a bit hard at first, but now that I know a few things, it’s good.” She proceeds to heel slide down the bunny hill without falling.
The Folkhards live in Blairmore, and can see their house from the ski hill. They could literally ride to the bottom of the hill and walk home since the hill ends in town. No shuttle or driving required. How cool is that?
As the clock strikes noon, we head in for lunch at the historic lodge. Instead of hotdogs and hamburgers, the menu boasts curry poutine, roasted Brussel sprouts, and roast chicken sandwiches. Tyler is not surprised because he knows the chef, Alejandro Verdi, who used to have a great Mexican fusion restaurant in town. We fill up on deliciousness, then ski some more.
Beyond the bunny hill
The majority of Pass Powderkeg ’s terrain is accessed via two T-bars. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden one, but just like riding a bike, it comes back quickly. The lift moves quickly too. According to Marty Neumeier, chairperson of the Pass Powderkeg Ski Society, “The T bar moves faster than a fixed chair; six feet per second.” Although Pass Powderkeg is an excellent learning hill, its varied terrain means “parents can play while kids are in a lesson.”
I warm up on Spina which wraps around to the east offering great mountain views. Next, I ski Chinook, a wide cruisy blue run to the base of the hill. It’s two T-bars to get to the top again, but soon I’m passing the terrain park and am back on the ridgetop. I head west to The Edge keeping an eye out for Crowsnest Mountain or the resident moose. Neither show their heads, but I enjoy the short, steep run.
Community ski hill
Pass Powderkeg has been operating since 1938 and has been building the ski culture in the Crowsnest Pass. “We try to keep it affordable, so people will want to come try,” Marty says about the community non-profit hill. It offers free skiing in the learning area, discounted introductory packages for beginners, including lift tickets, rentals, and a two-hour lesson. It also has an affordable, high quality snow school, ladies’ events and a high-level Masters’ Program.
True to its slogan, “Uncrowded, Unspoiled, Surprise Yourself,” Pass Powderkeg exceeds my expectations with 24 mostly intermediate level runs, short lines, awesome ski school (drop-in and multi-week lessons available), and affordable lift tickets. I watch the sun go down over Crowsnest Pass and am stoked my day pass is good until 8 p.m. so I can make some more turns.
Where to Stay
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Pass Powderkeg is located in the Crowsnest Pass, about 1.5 km from Lethbridge and 2.5 hours from Calgary. Click here to access the map.