Newly arrived Syrian family embraces first Canadian winter by hitting the slopes

Darin Adra, her husband and two children fled Syria because of the civil war. Now thanks to the generosity of staff at a local ski hill, the family is loving being out in the cold.

The family came to Montreal last May, hoping for a better life

The Mickaeel family is taking the bitterly cold temperatures in stride as they learn to ski in Val-David. (CBC)

Bitterly cold temperatures kept many people huddled inside over the past week, but not the Mickaeels — the Syrian family is determined to make the most of their first winter in Canada.

The Mickaeels came to Montreal last May, fleeing the civil war in Syria.

They hoped that learning to ski would help them adapt to their new home.

"It's a part of Canadian tradition, so if we go through it, we will integrate easily into Canadian society," said Ghadeer Mickaeel.

The family came to Montreal from Syria last spring. (Submitted by Mickaeel family)

He said that when the family arrived in the spring, they had time to get used to the new climate before the onslaught of winter.

"It was such a lovely sunny day. So it was like Syria. Now we are starting to know what winters mean in Quebec and Canada, but we love it."

Mickaeel's wife, Darin Adra, told CBC that by her third skiing lesson, she'd really begun to enjoy herself.

"I feel so happy when I do it, like I am flying," said Adra.

She said it was important for the family to get out of their comfort zone and try new things.

"We thought that maybe it will take long time to adapt here, to feel that you are real Canadian, but I'm surprised that I saw everything is going so fast," said Adra. "I feel we are almost Canadians."

Free lessons from Vallée Bleue

When a manager at Vallée Bleue, a ski hill about 80 kilometres north of Montreal, in Val-David, heard their story, the team there decided to help out.

The equipment rental and lessons for the family are free, explained co-owner Karen Lingat, and the gift hasn't gone to waste.

"It's fun to watch. Like, the first day it was totally kids screaming and it's like, 'I don't wanna do this,' and now they're halfway through the week and they can't wait to go out and ski again," said Lingat.
Darin Adra learns to ski at the Vallée Bleue hill in Val-David. (CBC)

At first Adra wasn't sure how her young son Issa would take to it, but she says she's been pleasantly surprised.

"Really I was afraid for Issa, but he's so good! I'm proud of him," she said.

With files from Simon Nakonechny