Winter in Alberta
By Julie Baxter | October 2017 | 5 minute read
With the Canadian Rockies on the doorstep and a long season of snow, Alberta is a top choice for those who want to ski, snowboard or experience some great alternative winter sports.
The wintersports season is upon us and as enthusiasts seek out their annual fix snowy Alberta’s famed powder and extensive ski area calls. But remember, there is plenty more on offer beyond fabulous skiing and boarding! So wise up fast to the numerous alternative winter activities in the province.
Long winters with reliable snowfall provide fresh powder conditions at world-class skiing and snowboarding resorts, but alongside these there are also frozen canyons to explore, tundra to snowshoe, dog-sled rides and great mountain landscapes to admire before visitors relax back to soak up the chilled apres-ski vibe.
Hit the slopes: Skiing the Rockies, surrounded by national park, adds kudos to any Alberta winter sports package. Jasper National Park has the highest base elevation of all Canada’s ski areas. Marmot Basin is at its heart and offers 86 runs spread across four mountain faces. Luxury hotels include the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, just outside of Jasper, and there are downtown lodges and hotels close to welcoming bars and restaurants. From Banff, downhill enthusiasts can head to the slopes of Sunshine Village, Norquay or Lake Louise, each with its own distinctive appeal and runs to suit all abilities.
Off-piste adventures: Beyond the adrenaline of skiing or boarding, visitors can try their hand at cross-country skiing at venues such as the Canmore Nordic Centre (developed for the 1988 Winter Olympics) or try snowshoeing in the back country, perhaps seeing wildlife up close or the ice bubbles which form in frozen lakes. No previous experience is required and great photos are assured. Or, suggest they take a horse sleigh ride through the landscapes or learn to mush as the dogs do the hard work on a dog sledding ride. The intrepid might try their hand at ice climbing, scaling a frozen wall or two in Jasper, Banff and Kananskis Country with an expert guide; or learning the ropes beforehand at the Calgary Outdoor Centre or with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures in Canmore. Helicopter trips showcase the mountains from yet another perspective, or time the visit right and visitors love the classic winter festivals such as Winter Start in Banff (December), Ice Magic in Lake Louise (January), Jasper in January, or Ice on Whyte in Edmonton (January/February).
Alternative winter activities
Dog sledding: Race across frozen landscapes with a team of dogs. No experience needed.
Hot Springs: The historic Banff Upper Hot Springs Miette Hot Springs near Jasper has mineral-rich waters with fab views.
Snow Tubing: There are snow-tubing parks across Alberta. Locations include Mount Norquay in Banff.
Ice Walking: Strap on the ice cleats and trek to frozen canyons and waterfalls.
Ice Hockey: See the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers or Canmore Eagles in action.