The first time I went downhill skiing was when I was about 10 years old on a grade 5 class trip to Ski Martock. The only exposure to the sport that I had prior to that was what I had watched on CBC sports. After literally being drug up the hill clinging to the t-bar I chose to totally disregard the snow plow technique taught to us in our group lesson and I proceeded to shoot down the hill the way I saw the pros do it on TV. It felt like the steepest and longest bunny hill ever! But thankfully I had mastered the fine art of wiping out at a young age and managed to survive my first skiing experience to try a few more times before reaching my mid-twenties.
Although we now live just 20 minutes from Ski Wentworth my wife Sara and I decided to wait a few years until the kids were of an age that they would fully appreciate their first ski experience. With Jaden now being 9 and Lienna 7 we felt that the time was right.
After reflecting upon my own first downhill ski experience we thought that signing the kids up for ski school might be a good idea. Upon arrival we got geared up with our boots, skis and helmet in the rental shop. The kids didn't require poles but Sara and I decided to go "old school" and stay with what we knew. Lienna must have felt a little left out as she asked "Mommy, can I have sticks too?"
The kids met their instructor Calvin at the bottom of the bunny hill. Sara and I watched intently as they took their first venture up the nifty magic carpet conveyor belt to the top of the bunny hill. The magic carpet is a huge improvement from the t-bar terrors I recall from my first time.
Both Jaden and Lienna were doing well so Sara and I decided to see if we were up for the challenge. It had been about 15 years since either of us had been downhill skiing. I'll be honest...I was completely nervous!
We did about three or four runs on the bunny hill and were pleasantly surprised to find that it was like "riding a bike" (we hadn't forgotten how). We figured that it was early enough in the kids' lesson that we could try a run from the top of the hill before checking in again with their progress.
The chairlift ride was spectacular and the hill was way bigger than it looked from the bottom. I'm told that Ski Wentworth has the highest vertical in Nova Scotia and the most skiable terrain in the Maritimes. I believe it, because it was awesome up there!
When we reached the top we decided to take the easiest route to the bottom to play it safe. The "Chickadee" was a cute name - how bad could it be? The start was very gradual - lulling us into a sense of security. We joked as we passed the black diamond trails on our way to the first steeper decline of Chickadee.
It was definitely faster than the bunny hill, but thankfully we were up for the challenge as we zipped down the first section. The majority of the Chickadee was a steady coast (plenty fast for me) through the maples and along a beautiful brook. It was truly liberating and kind of romantic flying down the hill together. But as we got closer to the bottom our thoughts went to the kids and wondering how they were getting by without us.
Calvin had mentioned earlier that if they were doing well enough that he might venture to the top with them. Though being their first time we quite honestly expected to still find them mastering the Bunny hill upon our return. But sure enough, they were gone when we got there so we decided to take another trip up the hill to catch up with them on their way down.
We were going at a pretty good clip expecting to find them as we rounded each turn. I had envisioned a slow progression of them sliding their way down the hill on their bums the majority of the way. To my surprise, we never did catch up to them. In fact, we found them beaming ear to ear with Calvin waiting for us to pick them up at the bottom of the hill.
It was pretty breezy that day so I thought that with the colder temperatures and being our first time to the hill everyone one would be pretty much ready to call it a day. Yet again I was wrong. The kids were eager to share their new found skill with us and wanted to tackle the hill one more time.
As "newbies" I was a little concerned with how we would all manage getting on and off the chairlift together, but the staff was great to recognize that we might need a little assistance by slowing things down for us. Surprisingly we all managed to get both on and off without incident.
I was totally amazed at how fearless both kids were as we approached the steeper portions of Chickadee. Jaden forged ahead and although both he and Lienna fell a few times along the way, they were thoroughly enjoying every minute of it. They simply popped back up each time and continued on. They even opted for the more challenging "Robin" trail at the end of the run.
As we reached the bottom I realized how incredibly thankful I was for Calvin and what a great job he did teaching the kids. I was also very proud of how they took on the day's challenge and far exceeded my expectations. In fact Lienna, the youngest of us all, wanted to do one more run of the bunny hill with mom before we left. She was also asking to return to the hill again the next day (I think someone may have caught the bug)!
Ski Wentworth is a true treasure in Nova Scotia and a fantastic winter attraction for both new and experienced skiers and snowboarders. The site also features fantastic cross country ski trails, a cafeteria or Ducky's lounge to warm up in, and is host to numerous events including dog sledding (March 9-12 and March 14-17).
A suggested pre or post ski stop at Sugar Moon Farm in nearby Earltown is another way to add a little flavour to your experience (mmm buttermilk pancakes and maple syrup). Tree tapping has already begun!