Okay, I’m impressed. We’ve driven by this ‘mountain’ many times and I heard it has a big ski school, but I never thought I’d ever actually ski there. But this year, my niece and nephews were given ski gear at Christmas and so we’re reserving some precious ski days to pass the torch onto the next generation of shredders.
As we drove towards the parking lot, we realized that arriving at 9:30 on a Sunday means a walk. The place was jumping. Cars were making a steady stream into the lower parking lots but Ski Saint Bruno (SSB) has a fun and unique method to quickly get people into the base. They utilize tractors and wagons to bring them up from the lower parking lots right to the ticket booth.
Before too long, we had my nine year old niece and twin seven year old nephews on the snow and heading to the first of four tapis de remontée (carpets). Saint Bruno has the largest ski school in Canada and it is still one of the largest in North America. It’s pretty impressive to witness how they manage to pass 33,000 students each year through the variety of programs offered at the hill. With 565 certified instructors, all decked out in red, it’s a well oiled machine built to grow our sport.
As responsible ‘teachers’ we started the kids off on a magic carpet (numéro deux) and down trail ‘9’. The consistent slope and wide open trail is perfect to refresh the skills and get them some confidence to move on to more advanced terrain.
Once everyone had proven they remembered how to turn and stop at will, we ventured into La Forêt Enchantée.
Here, the big and little kids could practice their turns and speed control, twisting through the woods while watching out for hidden creatures. La Forêt was a hit for several runs, and the kids had a great time spotting something new every time.
After lunch, mom announced it was time for her and the kids to try ‘the chair’! We chose to start at chair ‘C’ which gives the most options for easy runs. SSB uses conveyors to assist people getting onto the chairlifts and the system works great. We took run ‘8’ and found some really fun slalom ski courses marked out, where the kids could test their skills. It’s interesting to see that SSB uses every square inch of the hill to develop skills, and we could see evidence of the progression plan throughout.
So, the kids were super stoked and were close to tantrums as we neared the end of the day and they realized it was almost over. Knowing I had a report to write, I begged off for a couple of runs on the more advanced slopes to see what else was on offer.
So maybe ‘experts seulement’ is a bit of a stretch but you can understand the reasoning. There are a lot (A LOT) of brand new skiers on the hill at all times, and this slope is one of five that is steep enough to give them some big trouble. As it was, it gave me an excuse to tighten the boot straps and haul it for a few turns, and remember what it is we want the kids to experience some day.
I can’t say it was epic skiing, but SSB has done well to keep the rocks covered and ice at bay. And it was super fun to see the kids getting better on every run and see them so excited to ski, they were almost in tears at the end of the day.
If the goal is to inspire new skiers and grow the sport, I would say mission accomplished Saint Bruno. Well done.