Head south from Grande Prairie, cross the Wapiti River on the way to Grande Cache, hang an immediate right, slide past the O'Brien Park and into the Nitehawk Year-Round Adventure Park.
If you’re looking for a getaway to the east that carries some Alberta flavors, fun, and hospitality back to Mile Zero and to the BC side of the Peace, Go Nitehawk.
Nitehawk is as advertised for families young and old. Want to be a Wapiti Warrior? A Nitehawk Ninja? They've got you covered. A tube zone? Check. Luge? Yes.
"Our programs, camps and lessons are done to recognize the needs of the students, and their abilities regardless of age," says assistant manager at Nitehawk Johnathan Clarkson, who has been on the hill for more than 17 years - starting way back when as a ski patrol volunteer, before ascending Nitehawk’s management mountain.
Discovering ski and snowboarding, parent and tots, learn to slide classes and more, is all about keeping the family unit front and center, both on the Nitehawk slopes and in its chalets. Fourteen action-packed and scenic runs from the Easy Street and Will-O-Way, or more expert levels like Hwy. 40, and Roller Coaster.
Nitehawk has its genesis in the 1960s as a non-profit and for more than 60 years a legacy has developed amongst staff and instructors to use their training to promote proper, safe adventures.
This year saw the earliest winter opening in the history of the park - November 17. Clarkson says the holidays also brought a first this season.
"This was the first time in years that we were not shut down over Christmas at all. We saw some record numbers."
Clarkson says credit lies in the family oriented aspect of all the activities at Nitehawk on the hill. The mass arrival of families each day is testimony to this.
“Free ski Fridays brings out people - we can see upwards of 1,300 people that day."
This year there are plans for more amenities - including doubling the size of a chalet installed two years ago at the base of the tubing zone.
"We're also going to be adding LED lighting to the last halves of the runs on the hill, and this will completely change the experience for people.”
Nitehawk is all about the future of the sport and hill, with more than 7,000 kids on the adventure each season through school trips and instruction.
"School class instruction a big portion of our operating during the day certainly. We like to think we are fostering a love for the outdoor activities of the Peace Region winter - which can be a long season. We are also trying to grow the luge program through our schools as well,” says Clarkson.
“Kids are on our freestyle team, alpine teams, as well as all kinds of recreational skiing. Kids and youth are not thought of a ‘those darn snowboarders’ anymore.”
Clarkson admits it is hard to keep youth away from the hill.
"Sometimes before we even have a lift open, kids come out and hike the hill. The tube zone completely expands our appeal to families - it is fun tobogganing in the controlled setting."
Gone are the days of the single men and women mingling at the ski chalet over wine and fires. Nitehawk is pro-family and the pro family-experience.
“We are a year-round adventure park – but for the fact that we are here for families. That is our focus. Everyone learns to ski on their small local hill before going to the mountains. We take pride in that - ages 3 to 18, or adults looking to improve, we are here for them,” says Clarkson.
The majority of customers are families and they love the ‘Great One’ deal -$99 for one night of skiing and lift passes for the family.
Regardless of any extreme weather arrival of Mother Nature closing the hill and the entire outdoors, the onsite Snowmakers Lounge remains open seven days a week for those looking for an action-packed meal. Fish and chips, a famous Sunday brunch and more are as part of the Nitehawk programming as the snow grooming and Diamond difficult snow runs are.
Nitehawk is year round – a summer destination as well. A downhill mountain bike park, courses, summer tube rides, are keeping adventure affordable and accessible for families. Nowadays, the adventure never stops at Nitehawk.
“Our gates used to close in March, but now we employ about 50 people over the summer. This is also our third year managing Bear Paw golf course. Five years ago there was three of us over the summer months.”
There is adventure on the Nitehawk slopes, and in the future Nitehawk plans: a 20 year master-plan in front of Nitehawk board and management envisions more lifts, and more runs to the east.
"We’re not afraid of what we can do here."
No fear? Need adventure? Go Nitehawk.