Family builds back yard ski hill complete with tow rope
CALGARY -- When one Springbank family set out to build their own private ski hill in the back yard, there were plenty of uncommon backyard challenges to overcome, such as finding the right motor and pulley system to run a 90 metre tow rope.
The Park family found them.
“It actually works really cool,” said Ian Park. “I’m quite surprised at how smooth it is and how quickly it pulls (the kids) up and the fact that it pulls me up as well and some adults so I’m actually kind of shocked.”
Ian and Heather Park have the perfect back yard for tobogganing and skiing at their Springbank home. They have three daughters; six-year-old Avery, four-year-old Lydia and Madelyn is almost two.
“I’ve been dragging these kids up the hill trying to teach them how to ski,” said Heather Park. “But I can assure you that it’s quite exhausting when you have three little kids.”
In September she came up with the idea of the tow rope and tasked her husband, who is an engineer, to figure it all out. The supports went up before the ground froze and then it took a few months to get all the right parts.
“The motor was the first part,” said Ian. “Then I just needed to do some things there to figure out how big of a motor to get and wanted it to be electric and not gas so that set off a chain of events to figure out, there’s a massive electrical cable running back to the circuit panel so that was a big deal, bigger than I thought.”
The setup costs about $500 that Ian jokes is over budget for the project but it works.
“We put our six year old on who weighs 42 pounds and she definitely whipped up the hill a lot faster than we anticipated,” said Heather. “But it takes a couple times for the kids to figure it out and adjust to it but once they’ve got it, they’ve got it and they have a great time.”
The tow rope was first used after December’s massive snow fall and is a hit with the kids. Lydia says it’s more fun going up the hill than down.
“Um, it whips you back up and you have to push down (on the rope because that) keeps it going up,” said Lydia.
The next step could include lighting the back yard slope but that project is a few years off.
“The problem is our kids we start their bedtime at 6:30 so we haven’t quite invested in creating a night skiing system yet,” said Heather. “But maybe a few years down the line when we’re able to stay up past 6:30 we’ll contemplate putting those in.”
Ian is always looking to improve the tow rope but is also trying to figure out how to make sure the slope doesn’t get too icy.
“The big one is can we actually make a grooming machine if they start to ski and I have to design that,” said Ian. “Hopefully that’s not as hard.”
The whole idea of the back yard tow rope is to make a positive memory for the family during the pandemic.
“Our goal for this year was just to make a fun year so our kids look back at the year and they don’t think this is the year we had COVID,” said Heather. “They think this is the year we had a tow rope and we made special memories with our family.”