Although I have lived in Victoria for more than a dozen years over two different stints, I never had the opportunity to visit Mount Washington Alpine Resort. Since neither my wife nor I have much experience skiing, our trips to the Comox Valley have mainly involved camping at Miracle Beach Province Park or visiting the trio of craft breweries that have opened in Courtenay and Cumberland over the past couple of years. So when I was given the opportunity to visit the alpine resort perched on the edge of Strathcona Provincial Park, we decided to take our seven-year-old son out of school for a couple of days for a short snow vacation. He was thrilled–after all, we rarely get snow in Victoria.
It was an easy, three-hour drive from Victoria to the Comox Valley, broken up by a lunch stop at the family-friendly Dog House Restaurant in Duncan. Our home base was the very comfortable Old House Hotel and Spa in downtown Courtenay, which provided us with a one-bedroom suite that was ideal for our small family. The hotel’s outdoor heated pool was a big hit with my son, while I was especially drawn to the hot tub.
The next morning was foggy down in Courtenay, but up at Mount Washington it was brilliantly clear, sunny and surprisingly warm. The helpful staff sorted out all the gear we needed and then we headed up to the top of the bunny hill for our two-hour private lesson. Mike, our teacher, shared his philosophy early on that the only way someone can learn to ski is by skiing, so we didn’t spend a lot of time practicing techniques in our boots. It seemed like we were on our skis and sliding down the hill in no time.
I had a private skiing lesson at Whistler Blackcomb a few years ago, and that experience was still fresh in my memory–I found I was quite comfortable on the ski hill. My wife and son also did well; Mike taught us how to snowplow to slow down or stop (using “pizza” shaped skis), gave us a useful tip on how to turn (pretend you’re pushing a button down with the big toe on your outside foot), and encouraged us to try to start turning with parallel skis (“french fries”) as soon as we were comfortable.
After the lesson finished, we practiced a bit on our own before we took a break for lunch. Then we headed back out to the tube park. Mount Washington’s tube park is very popular among people of all ages, but especially for children, of course. I took a few slides there with my family before heading back out for another hour of skiing. After that, it was late afternoon and we were all happy, but tired. As my muscles began to stiffen up on the drive back down to Courtenay, I looked forward to the hot tub at the hotel.
All in all, we had a wonderful day on Mount Washington. It was a great introduction to skiing for my son, and a fun refresher for my wife and me. We all agreed we definitely want to return there next winter.
Skiing and snowboarding in Courtenay, British Columbia
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