Things to Do in Calgary in Winter

Fat tire biking in Sandy Park in winter
Fat tire biking in Sandy Park in winter

How many of you know that you don’t have to hit the mountains to have fun outside in Calgary in winter? I confess that I have been one of those people who equate winter in Calgary with skiing or snowshoeing in the mountains. It wasn’t until I started exploring Calgary in winter that I had more than a few ah-ha moments. It’s been fun scouring Calgary looking for fun things to do. Here’s what I’ve found. Some are old favourites, some new.

Some years we get great big dumps of snow in Calgary - this one in November
Some years we get great big dumps of snow in Calgary – this one in November

When is winter in Calgary?

Some years Calgary gets snow and the temperatures dive just after Thanksgiving and don’t warm up till April. Other years, I’ve biked on glorious warm November days around the Calgary Reservoir – with not even a dusting of snow around. The bottom line regarding winter in Calgary is that the start date is all over the map.

I would recommend that you count on snow by early November – and if you get lucky and it doesn’t start till the end of the month, so much the better. 

As far as the end of winter in Calgary is concerned, it’s usually the end of March into April. I have lived in the city when it’s been close to -20C for almost a week in April. Where are the daffodils? The calendar says spring but some years you have to change your expectations.

Fat tire biking in Calgary's Sandy Park in winter
Fat tire biking in Sandy Park in winter

Things to do in Calgary in winter

Visit WinSport at Canada Olympic Park

Head to COP – Canada Olympic Park and take advantage of all the great winter activities available through WinSport. Outdoors choose from skiing and snowboarding, bobsledding, luge, and tubing.

Go tubing

The tubing park is wildly popular. As the biggest in western Canada it boasts 10 lanes, some as long as 200 metres. The park is open 9 AM – 5 PM on weekends and 10 AM – 9 PM on weekdays beginning January 1st. Family prices start at $59.99 for two hours.

Only go if you want to have a whole lot of fun. For more information visit their website here.

Calgary in winter - try the tubing track at WinSport
The new tubing track at WinSport

Try skiing and snowboarding at COP

Who says you have to leave Calgary to ski or snowboard? Head on over with your kids to Calgary Olympic Park and take advantage of family friendly prices.

Pop on some boards or skis, find a hill to suit your ability and let the kids try the progression or terrain park. Watch the athletes strut their stuff at the Under Armour Super Pipe – the largest in western Canada! Starting in January the slopes are open until 9 PM weekdays.

WinSport is ideal for novice skiers & snowboarders though there are terrain parks too
WinSport is ideal for novice skiers & snowboarders though there are terrain parks too

Get an adrenaline rush on a bobsled run

As one fellow at WinSport said to me, despite the price tag, bobsledding is incredibly popular. You must reserve in advance – and it’s not offered every day.

From personal experience I can tell you it’s a huge thrill speeding down a narrow tube at over 90 km an hour – though not one I need to repeat.

Bobsledding in Calgary
Bobsledding in Calgary – Photo credit: WinSport

Try the luge in Calgary in winter

Are you at least 9 years old? Do you weigh less than 275 pounds? Are you less than 6′ 5″? If you said yes you’re good to go. Last question – can you count to 40? That’s how many seconds the luge ride is. And you’re the driver.

Good luck. Book here and learn all the scary details.

Trying the luge
On your mark, get set – Photo credit: WinSport

Go tobogganing 

There are loads of hills scattered throughout the city that are perfect for tobogganing during a Calgary winter. If it’s a city maintained park, the City of Calgary has strict rules on where you can go sledding. Apparently my favourite is not on the approved list. And kids – don’t forget your helmets.

Try cross-country skiing in Calgary

Cross-country skiing is best done after a fresh dump of snow before an icy crust sets in. Top places to cross-country skiing in and near Calgary include the Shaganappi Point Golf Course, Confederation Golf Course, Maple Ridge Golf Course, Lakeview Golf Course and Bowness Park.

Two other parks are worth checking out – South Glenmore Park and Canmore Park which often goes by the name North Capitol Hill Park.

Cross-country skiing in Confederation Park
Cross-country skiing in Confederation Park

Go snowshoeing during a Calgary winter 

If you can walk you can snowshoe. After a fresh snow hit some of your favourite Calgary parks. I love both Nose Hill Park and Fish Creek Provincial Park for the sheer number and variety of trails they offer. In the case of Nose Hill, the city and mountain views get top marks too.

You might also want to read: 7 Places to Snowshoe within 2 Hours of Calgary

Nose Hill Park is a great place to go snowshoeing after a fresh dump of snow
Nose Hill Park is a great place to go snowshoeing after a fresh dump of snow

Skate outside in a Calgary winter

If Mother Nature cooperates there are loads of family friendly places around Calgary for skating. Many of these rinks would also be perfect for a date night – especially the first four listed.

My new favourite is the Bowness Park Lagoon. Until  recently I didn’t appreciate its size – or the fact it’s got free parking, warming fires and an onsite restaurant and café. Apart from the 35 volunteer rinks, the following offer a superb skating experience, weather permitting of course.

  • Prince’s Island Lagoon – 4th St. & 1st Ave SW
  • Bowness Park Lagoon – 8900 48th Ave NW (Rentals are available Friday nights and weekends starting December 25th.)
  • Carburn Park – 67 Riverview Drive SE
  • Olympic Place – 228 8th Avenue SE (Skate rentals are available.)
  • Big Marlborough Park – 755 Madeira Drive NE
  • Rosemont Rinks – 2807 10th Street NW
  • Prairie Winds Park – 223 Castleridge Blvd. NE
  • Thompson Family Park – 1236 16th Avenue SW
  • Spruce Meadows – The pond at Spruce Meadows is open from 10 AM – 4 PM during the holiday season, weather permitting.
How about a skate date at Bowness Park?
How about a skate date at Bowness Park?
The Carburn Park rink - a few days before it's open to the public
The Carburn Park rink – a few days before it’s open to the public

Play shinny during a Calgary winter

Shinny is fun no matter what your age. I love watching little kids play alongside adults at the community rinks scattered around Calgary.

This list of skating rinks will get you going.

  • Winston Heights-Mountview Community Rink & Oval – 520 27th Avenue NE
  • Sandstone MacEwan Community Association – 1100 Berkshire Blvd NW
  • Rosemont Rinks in Confederation Park – 2807 10th Street NW
  • Hidden Valley Association Community Association Rink – 10504 Hidden Valley Drive NW
  • Ramsay Community Association Rink – 1136 8th Street SE
  • Deer Ridge Outdoor Hockey Rink – 137 Deermont Way SE
  • Edgemont Community Association Rink – 33 Edgrevalley Circle NW
  • Elboya Heights Community Association Rink – 416 Park Avenue SW
Playing shinny in Calgary
Playing shinny in Calgary

Go for a winter run in Calgary

Do you need a race or an event to motivate you to run? With hundreds of kilometres of cleared trails in Calgary, you should have no problem training for one of these winter road races.

  • Frozen Ass Fifty is a winter ultra-race with two distances – 25 and 50 km. It’s put on by Gord’s Running Store.
  • Run for L’Arche features a half marathon, an 8 km run and 1 km fun walk, all along the Bow River. Proceeds from the race go to helping five Calgary L’Arche homes for adults with developmental disabilities.
  • Original St. Patrick’s Day Road Race Join 1,000 of your closest running buddies in either a 5 km or 10 km race with the proceeds going to benefit The Canadian Diabetes Foundation and The Calgary Road Runners. The race snakes through the communities of Lakeview and North Glenmore.
  • XCountry Races Sign up for one the Calgary Roadrunners six cross-country races. Each race explores a different part of Calgary including Nose Hill, Weaselhead, Fish Creek, Nose Creek, Twelve-Mile Coulee and Silver Springs.
400 kilometres of Calgary's trails are usually cleared within 24 hours of a snowfall
400 kilometres of Calgary’s trails are usually cleared within 24 hours of a snowfall

Go for a bike ride in the dead of a Calgary winter

Calgary has a very active and dedicated group of winter cyclists – in part because hundreds of kilometres of trails around the city are cleared of snow within 24 – 48 hours of a snowfall. The City of Calgary website offers loads of good advice on exactly what to wear and what paths are cleared. In fact you can download an app and get the information on the go.

If you don’t own a fat tire bike or one with studs you can rent from Bow Valley Cycle. Favourite city destinations are Fish Creek Park and the city bikeways.

Read: Crazy and Fun: Winter Fat Biking in Calgary 

Dress properly and winter biking can be great fun in Calgary
Dress properly and winter biking can be great fun in Calgary

Catch a fish on the Bow River

If the Bow River is flowing in winter you can be out fly-fishing – though it’s usually best when the temperature is above zero for a couple of days and the slush in the river has disappeared.

Fly-fishing on the Bow River
Fly-fishing on the Bow River

Go for an invigorating walk during the Calgary winter

Fresh air and sunshine is good for the soul. Hit the trails and the parks around Calgary. In Fish Creek Provincial Park there are 80 km of trails alone. One of my favourites is the Elbow River Pathway and the trail around Glenmore Reservoir though I’ve got some new ones in 2023 after spending three weeks exploring trails all over Calgary. Most of theses 25+ walking trails in Calgary and nearby can be done year-round.

Explore 80 kilometres of trails in Fish Creek Provincial Park
 A winter walk along the Elbow River Parkway
A winter walk along the Elbow River Parkway

Look for birds 

Birding doesn’t stop in the winter. Take a pair of binoculars and walk the trails and visit the parks. Check out the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Reserve or join a guided nature walk.

You'll find plenty of birds other than magpies in Calgary
You’ll find plenty of birds – other than magpies if you keep your ears and eyes open

Check out one of the Calgary winter festivals or special events

There’s an incredible amount to do outdoors in winter including a couple of winter festivals, two of which take place outside.

Calgary Icebreaker Polar Drop Do you dare? On 1 PM on New Year’s Day jump into a hole in the ice at the lake by the Elbow Valley Resident’s Club. All proceeds go to a good cause.

YYC Hot Chocolate Fest Drink hot chocolate in February – creatively prepared – and help choose the best in two categories – regular and with booze. Proceeds support Meals on Wheels.

New Year’s Eve Outdoor Celebration  From 7 PM until midnight you can join the annual party to welcome the New Year. Filled with family friendly events, live music, skating and ice carving, it ends at midnight with a firework’s display.

Zoolights at Calgary Zoo Featuring 1.5 million lights and running until January 8th, a winter trip to the zoo is a time-honoured tradition for many a family.

Block Heater Festival Going into its 7th year in 2022, this Inglewood based music festival is winter’s answer to the popular Calgary Folk Festival.

Chinook Blast Warm up your winter in Calgary over the month of February with block parties, skating, live music, The Beacon, the Asian Night Market and more. Programming changes from year to year.

Skating and live music at the Olympic Plaza during Chinook Blast
Skating and live music at the Olympic Plaza during Chinook Blast
Look out for bears and fire breathing dragons in downtown Calgary
Look out for bears and fire breathing dragons in downtown Calgary

Further reading on things to do in Calgary

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

What you can do outside in Calgary in winter


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