It’s a winter wonderland out there, and what better time to enjoy it than right now over the holiday season! I am fortunate enough to be spending the holidays in Canmore with my family this year, and with that comes an extensive list of activities to do. This is one of my most favorite times of year to be out in Canmore; snow covered landscapes, majestic white capped peaks and twinkling Christmas lights throughout. If you aren’t an outdoor-winter-activity fanatic yet, then I highly recommend giving something a try soon because finding a winter activity not only keeps you healthy and active throughout the winter but it makes the cold dark season pass a lot faster. If you aren’t near Canmore, don’t fret, many of these activities can be found anywhere the snow has fallen. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Canmore!
Anyone who knows me and my family knows that we are one group of passionate skiers. Growing up it was something we could do as a family (as opposed to hockey practice) and the speed and adrenaline kept my sister and I interested. With nearly 10 ski resorts within a three hour drive from Calgary the options seem endless and you can really choose to go where the best snow is; Nakiska, Norquay, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, Kicking Horse, Panorama, Kimberley, Fernie, and Castle Mountain. I understand it is an expensive sport but here are some ways to save a buck or two. The Canadian Ski Council’s SnowPass lets grade 4 and 5 students ski and ride three times at EACH participating ski area for $29.95. There are several frequency cards that work for multiple ski areas that include three free days plus a discounted lift ticket on the other days. Check out the Sunshine Marmot Card, RCR Ski Card ($89.95, pays off on your second visit!) and the Lake Louise Plus Card ($99, pays off after second visit!), but hurry they are only sold until December 26! Another place to get discounted lift tickets is COSTCO, saving about $20 per ticket for places like Red Mountain, BC and Mont Tremblant, QC. If you need to rent equipment I would recommend checking out the University of Calgary Outdoor Center as opposed to renting on the hill. Although the hill offers more convenience, the Outdoor Center is cheaper ($27/day for adult high performance skis, boots and poles) and offers great weekend rates (rent from Friday to Monday and only pay for two days). Also, the Outdoor Centre rents avalanche safety gear, backcountry skiing gear, cross-country skiing gear and much much more!
Think of snowshoeing like winter hiking (snowshoeing trip review here), you require them so you don’t sink into the deep snowpack. You can choose to follow your favorite summer trails or go off the trail and into the bush, letting your spirit for adventure guide you! There are plenty of places in Canmore that offer snowshoe rentals as well as the Outdoor Center in Calgary. Remember to pack a lunch; a thermos of coffee and soup tastes so much better when out on the trail amidst the calm winter forest. May as well make some snow angels too!
Canmore has a multitude of outdoor ice rinks, but the cutest one (in my opinion) is the natural pond on 7th Avenue at Mallard Alley (just two blocks from Main Street). It is the site for several winter special events (Skate with Santa, New Years on the Pond, Kid & Mutt Races, Ice Carving) and is complete with lights for night skating and a gazebo with heaters.
There are several places in Calgary that have well maintained tracks, such as golf courses and Canada Olympic Park. If you want to get out of the city, the Nordic Center in Canmore is a world class facility with a range of trail difficulties. A bit further up the Spray Lakes Road is Mount Shark day use area which also offers a wide range of trails. If you’re looking for more of an adventure, follow the Goat Creek Trail from Canmore to Banff. It’s 18km, mostly downhill, takes about two hours to complete and has a pretty well maintained track throughout. For more information read my trip review from last season.
And Much More!
Even I have not tried everything that Canmore has to offer! I’ve seen a couple dog sledding outfits running around the Canmore area every winter (Snowy Owl, Howling Dog Tours and more), and it’s always been on my list of things to try. Ice climbing is another adrenaline/adventure filled activity I have yet to encounter. Perhaps 2014 is the year I sign up for a course! And recently I discovered Canmore Cave Tours, who offers natural history tours into the Rat’s Nest Cave: a wild, undeveloped cave under Grotto Mountain, which I’ve signed up for a tour in January! Rappelling 18m plus a “Laundry Chute” will be the true test as to whether or not I am afraid of heights or claustrophobic! Stay tuned!
If you’re starting to feel a little cabin fever/stir crazy, especially if your extended family is with you, escaping to the outdoors for some fresh air might not be a bad idea and I hope this gives you a couple ideas! I wish everyone a fun, safe and active holiday season!