Here are 10 ideas for winter day trips out of Calgary. There is something for everyone.
Go downhill skiing.
Out of Calgary you have numerous options. The closest resort to Calgary is Nakiska in Kananaskis Provincial Park. In Banff National Park you have the choice of Sunshine Ski Resort, Mount Norquay or Lake Louise. To the south, about 2.5 hours away you’ll find Castle Mountain Resort in the Westcastle Valley of the Rocky Mountains, the site of the 1975 Winter Games. To the north and just 10 minutes east of Red Deer look for Canyon Ski Resort, Alberta’s largest non-mountain resort, as they bill themselves. Prices here are only $40 per adult per day. And in Calgary you’ll find skiing on a small hill at Canada Olympic Park, open daily from 9 am to 9 pm.
Snowshoeing is something just about everyone can do.
In Banff National Park there are lots of easy snowshoe trails close to the Banff Springs Hotel – though the snow conditions right now are poor. For a longer tour try the 12 kilometre return trip to the Inkpots, close to Castle Mountain. I also highly recommend the tours to Chester Lake and Rummel Lake in Kananaskis. They have the added benefit of being close to Mount Engadine Lodge, where you have the option of reserving for their afternoon tea.
Drive to Drumheller and visit the Royal Tyrell Museum.
It’s considered to be the finest dinosaur museum in the world. But before you get there, get out and walk through Horseshoe Canyon, a beautiful spot at any time of the year. If you’re hungry in Drumheller stop at Cafe Italiano (35 3rd Avenue West) for a grilled panini or at The Whistling Kettle (109 Centre Street) for a slice of pie.
Go skating at Lake Louise.
Every winter Lake Louise is transformed into a skating rink. You can enjoy public skating with an entry through the ice castle or bring your stick for a game of pick up hockey in a separate area. The lake is lit until midnight but in theory you could skate around the clock. It’s free to skate. Skate rentals are available at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise at a cost of $10 for 2 hours or $13 all day for adults – half that for kids.
Head to the Upper Hot Springs in Banff.
They’re open from 10 AM to 10 PM Sunday to Thursday and to 11 PM on weekends. For only $7.30 you can have a hot soak in a historic setting. They even rent bathing suits.
Dog-sledding is so much fun.
Although most tours are only half day long, they’re fun to do and great for all but the very young. In Canmore you can choose from three companies or head to Kicking Horse Pass near Lake Louise with Kingmik Dog Sled Tours.
Go to the annual international ice carving competition at Lake Louise.
Twenty four internationally recognized ice carvers work in teams of two to create one of a kind art pieces out of a 300 pound block of ice. The sculptures are on display for many weeks. The following weekend lots of family fun is scheduled including a Little Chippers program where kids can try their hand at carving.
Head out for some cross-country skiing in and around Calgary.
There’s the Nordic Center in Canmore that offers 65 kilometres of groomed and track set trails. This is where the Olympic athletes come to train. Or you can head to Peter Lougheed Park in Kananaskis Provincial Park where skiing on the 90 kilometres of groomed trails is free. You can’t rent equipment in the park though.
Drive to Rosebud, home to the famous Rosebud Theatre.
The drive takes you through rolling countryside filled with small valleys and streams. Back in the 1940’s, Group of Seven painter A.Y. Jackson came here to sketch the area’s farms and ranches – so that should give you an idea of how pretty it is. Plan a stop for something to eat at the Rosebud Country Inn.
Take an ice walk up Johnston Canyon.
You’ll be treated to views of frozen waterfalls and perhaps the odd ice climber or two. You do need to rent or buy something like Yactrax that provides traction on the slippery sections. You can go to the lower falls – just 1.2 kilometres each way or if you’re more ambitious, hike 2.7 kilometres one way to the upper falls. The trailhead is less than 20 minutes from Banff.