Kelly Vanderbeek, Canadian Olympic Downhill Skier and World Cup Medalist considers Lake Louise Ski Resort her ski hill of choice. Taking her first glides strapped into skis on her hometown hill Kapuskasing, Ontario’s Remi Ski Hill, which has one single rope tow, and progressing to Kitchener, Ontario’s Chicopee Ski Club where she began racing on a hill that at the time seemed massive with its chairlift access, Kelly took her small hill roots and went on to ski on mountains around the world.
“I had raced at Lake Louise for 20 years and it was a no-brainer to make it our home hill,” says Kelly. As the first Canadian Female to place on home soil at the Lake Louise FIS World Cup, Kelly remembers starting her races by looking out over the mountains and taking in a deep breath of fresh air.
She and her husband David Ford have now planted themselves in Canmore, Alberta where they are raising their five-year-old son Cooper, who’s been learning to ski since the age of two. And while Kelly has skied and raced for years, there’s nothing that matched the feeling of seeing her son first learn to ski.
“The first time Cooper skied, he was only 2 and it’s an odd feeling having something slide under your feet. It’s very unusual and can be intimidating. He got off the carpet and looked at me ‘like what are you doing to me?’ So, we made a game out of it and chased his dad and by the time we reached the bottom, he had figured it out. He looked at me with the biggest smile and asked if we could do it again. We were over the moon to watch that and see him take in that transition,” remembers Kelly.
It’s a nice reminder for Kelly to cherish these learning steps with her son as she speaks with a lot of parents of older children who are now off doing their own thing, and some have mentioned that they only time they can pin them down is on the chairlift. Cooper now skis with the Grizzlies at Lake Louise and is just as fond of the social aspect, ripping around the hills with his buddies, as he is for the breakfast buffet in the main lodge.
Whether you’re learning on a mountain or a hill, the sport of skiing is vitally important in Kelly’s opinion. “As we’re -20 something degrees outside right now, we need to learn to play in the winter. We’re not a creature that hibernates, we play and enjoy the winter. Exposing more people to the sport of skiing and snowboarding can give them the freedom of that comes from experiencing the hill,” says Kelly.
Kelly’s advice for those starting out: “Jump in. Go and find out what the first step is, whether that’s renting equipment and trying it, taking a lesson, or just coming to the lodge and experiencing the energy around you.” For Kelly, there’s so much more than just skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort, when family visits that don’t ski, they tube, enjoy the lodge, or check out the hamlet of Lake Louise. She encourages you to tap into the community at the hill and attend events to get a feel for the hill.