With snow finally making an appearance, November is the time to get pumped for winter in Alberta. Say no to winter blahs by filling your weekends and holidays with a host of exciting outdoor adventures. From skiing to dogsledding, skating to snowshoeing, ice-climbing to fat tire biking – there really is no excuse not to get outside. Invest in the clothing so you can enjoy those sunny, blue sky days, even when the thermometer dips to -25°C. It’s amazing how even a few hours outside on a winter day can enhance your sense of well-being.
Here are 10 activities that will get you excited for winter in Alberta.
- Have your boards and your skis tuned now so you can hit the ski resorts in the Rocky Mountains once they open. For the shortest drive from Calgary head for Nakiska Ski Resort in Kananaskis Country. In Banff National Park choose from three ski resorts – Mount Norquay – a perfect choice for novice skiers and home this year to 90 cent ski days (once a month only) to celebrate their 90th anniversary, Sunshine Village – home to Canada’s first heated chairlift (new this season) and Lake Louise Ski Resort with its exceptional scenery and vast choice of terrain. If you’re lucky enough to visit Jasper National Park in winter give Marmot Basin a try. It’s a well-designed, friendly resort and a great choice for families.
- Not into downhill skiing? No problem. Enjoy the cozy vibe of a backcountry hut tucked into the mountains – and accessible only on cross-country skis or via snowshoes. Near the town of Banff choose the relatively easy to access Sundance Lodge. More experienced backcountry skiers should consider Skoki Lodge or Tonquin Valley Lodge. Shadow Lake Lodge with its individual log cabins is another excellent choice.
- Bring skates or rent a pair at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise so you can enjoy the magic of skating or playing shinny on Lake Louise. Called the world’s best skating rink by both CNN and the Huffington Post, skating here offers a backdrop like no other, In January be dazzled by the Ice Magic Festival.
- Ever wondered what it’s like to snowshoe under a full moon? Sign up for a two hour tour with Kananskis Outfitters and see for yourself. Or choose their Dark Sky Stargazing Tour – a new addition this year. Other options for exploring Kananaskis Country include Sunday morning tours and private half or full day snowshoe tours.
- Cat skiing powder snow at Castle Mountain Resort in southern Alberta is a thrilling experience. Strapped onto a pair of fat skis, it’s like floating on air – when you get it right. With pointers from the guides, intermediate and better skiers will have an adrenalin filled day that will leave you wanting more.
- While ice climbing might look intimidating it’s actually a whole lot of fun. And it’s VERY SAFE if you go with a guiding company like Rockaboo. In just a few hours you can learn to rappel down a frozen waterfall and climb right back up with an axe in each hand, a pair of crampons and a few words of encouragement from your belayer. One of the best places to try it in Alberta is on the beautiful frozen waterfalls at the end of Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park.
- Head to Banff’s Soul Ski & Bike for a fat tire mountain bike rental and information on the best trails to ride in winter. That will vary depending on whether you’re there on a powder day or if a Chinook has rolled in and turned the snow to mush. For novice riders the Sundance Trail that follows the Bow River is usually an excellent choice – and a scenic one to boot. If you’re hardcore chances are you’ll be directed to the Tunnel Mountain area where you can challenge your conditioning program as well.
- Unleash your inner musher on a dogsledding tour out of Canmore. It’s a wonderfully romantic activity to do with your partner and it can be just as much fun with kids. The dogs will enchant you with their personalities and amaze you with their athleticism. Tours run the gamut from two hours to overnight. Now who wouldn’t want to do that?
- Explore the trails around Bragg Creek on snowshoes or skis, especially right after a fresh snow. The Ranger Summit – Strange Brew Loop is particularly beautiful. Over several hours you are treated to many a mountain view and the silence of a snow shrouded forest. Take a thermos of hot chocolate and enjoy it in the woods. Afterwards warm up in one of Bragg Creek’s cafés.
- Hike up Johnston Canyon – wearing a pair of icers – to admire the frozen beauty. While some people don’t bother wearing anything to stop the sliding, you do so at your peril. There are two sets of frozen waterfalls to see – with the best being at the upper falls, 2.6 kilometres from the parking lot. Always popular, this trail is best hiked early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.
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A big thank you to Travel Alberta for sponsoring this post – but really what’s not to love about winter in this province?