The Manitoba terrain offers no mountains for your typical downhill skiing experience. But don't underestimate us: we still do it, but we do it in valleys. As travel writer Christalee Froese explains, all that pizzazz of a luxury ski resort isn't needed to have a good time. As long as there's snow and speed, there's fun.

'Go ahead, we'll meet you at lunch,' tumbles from our mouths. We can hardly believe what we're saying. We're sending our 11-year-old and six of his buddies out on the slopes . . . alone? But all the other parents are doing it! As soon as we explored Asessippi Ski and Resort Area's five green runs,13 blue, four black and three terrain parks, it was official - we'd set the kids free. You should have seen the looks on their faces - bewilderment and awe, followed by hoots of emancipation. Freedom - a kids' best friend. With a $10 bill in each of their pockets, we didn't speak to them again until lunch. And even then, they bought their own meal, sat at their own table and acted like they'd never seen us before in their lives.

"We had a family from Regina that booked an entire week spring break in Fernie, B.C., but after visiting Asessippi they decided to cancel their reservation and come here," said the resort's marketing director. "My jaw dropped when I heard that story, but it's true that this is plenty of resort for most families and it offers that freedom for the kids that a mountain resort just can't."

It's not a mountain. But with 25 runs, some as long as 700 metres, and an on-hill Pizza Hut, this prairie ski resort offers a slice of alpine life. The slice that doesn't cost alpine village prices. "What I find is that when I ski in the mountains, I don't use the top half of places like Whistler any way, but yet I'm charged the same price," says the marketing director, pointing out that one-day lift passes at Asessippi are around $45.

Sure, a crackling fire in a five-star lodge with a mountain-top view is always nice. But how about a night in the jungle surrounded by monkeys, elephants and giraffes? The Russell Inn, about 15 minutes from Asessippi in Russell, Manitoba, provides it all in their Jungle Suite. With a 4-man (8-kid) Jacuzzi tub and a thatched roof right in the room, the kids thought they were in South American heaven. Ski freedom by day, and wild jungle by night. It's something the mountains dream of, but only Asessippi Ski Resort in Manitoba can provide.