Winter Fun in Alberta
December through April sees Alberta blanketed in snow. If you travel in winter, the focus of your vacation will be very different than a summer trip. Instead of hiking and canoeing and barbecuing, you’ll be skiing and snowshoeing, then retreating to relax around a roaring fire each evening. Naturally, a winter itinerary centers on the famous Canadian Rockies. But if you want to experience Alberta beyond the mountains and have an extra day, the Royal Tyrrell Museum is an interesting add-on from Calgary.
Calgary’s Four Points by Sheraton is a good base for starting your winter adventure, as Canada Olympic Park is across the road. Most days you can watch training sessions at the massive ski jumps or down the luge track, or take to the slopes yourself where Olympians competed in slalom events in the 1988 Olympic Winter Games.
Heading west to Banff, you have three resorts to explore: Ski Norquay, where runs vary from an easy magic carpet to heart-thumping moguls, all within sight of town; Sunshine Village, accessible only by gondola and with on-hill accommodations (the oversized outdoor hot tub is a bonus); and Lake Louise, Canada’s second-largest alpine resort. Choosing to stay in the village of Lake Louise allows the time to join in the postcard view by trying ice-skating in front of The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and going for a sleigh ride.
Nestled in a snow-filled valley far from any road is Skoki Lodge, accessible only on cross-country skis. It takes fit skiers around three hours, and up to five for those not used to this form of recreation. But either way, upon arrival your friendly hosts will greet you with hot chocolate. Allow at least two nights at Skoki.
You’ll probably want to ski every day, but plan on spending at least one day exploring Banff beyond the resorts. In the morning join a guided “ice walk” through the frozen waterfalls of Johnston Canyon. Wander the streets of Banff, and make sure to stop in the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. Finally, soothe those aching limbs by taking a soak at the Upper Hot Springs.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition