Monday, November 13, 2017

A Ski Family's Holiday Gift Guide

There's lots of snow in my backyard, the skis are out, and I've already been listening to Christmas music since November 1st. (yes, I'm one of "those" people.) My annual holiday gift guide has always been one of my most popular stories, and this year I have chosen my family's favourite winter hobby as the theme. Skiing!

A Ski Family's Holiday Gift Guide


Gift Ideas for the Downhill Family 


- Sponsored by Nakiska Ski Area (with GIVEAWAY)



Ski Discount Cards - Didn't jump on seasons passes this year? No problem. Put an RCR Rockies Card in each family member's stocking and you'll be able to afford multiple ski days on the slopes this winter. Each card costs $99.95 and includes three free days of skiing at four awesome resorts including Nakiska Ski Area, Calgary's closest resort. And for creative gift wrapping, wrap the discount card in a pair of ski socks or a new pair of gloves.


A New Thermos for the Day Lodge - Save money on over-priced hot chocolate and coffee at the ski hill by bringing your own thermos with you.  You can also bring a hot lunch for the kids in a fun themed food thermos.

Beverage Thermos Suggestions:



New skis (of course) - There must be somebody in your family who could use a new pair of skis. I know my husband hints about this often! Or at the very least, buy your wife a new pair of ski poles if she's been using the same ones since she was a teenager. (Yes, that's a true story!) And I should add that new ski boots also make a great gift idea. (Also good for the wife who's had the same pair since she was probably 18 years old.)

And if the kids need new ski boots, I suggest checking out the adjustable Roces Ski Boots from All Out Kids Gear, Affiliate Partner.


A New Ski Helmet - Kids grow. Helmets get too small. Upgrade to a newer helmet this Christmas and protect those noggins.

Ski Helmets make great Christmas gifts


New Ski Goggles - My son will be getting  a new pair of ski goggles this Christmas because I just realized that he's been wearing his current ones since he was 2 or 3 years old. (He's now 8!) Helmet-goggle gap is a "thing" apparently, and so you'll want to make sure your child has a cool pair of goggles to fit his or her helmet.


Two Way Radios for the Hill - Have you ever lost a kid on a ski hill? Or a spouse even? I have, and it's terrifying! With two way radios, you can ski worry-free, even if your little shredder accidentally gets ahead of you and takes a wrong turn.

Check out this Motorola Solutions T100 Family Two Way Radio


Note that this section contains affiliate links to Amazon.ca. Follow the links, shop from their website, and I might earn a few dollars to put towards those new skis my husband wants. 


AND, scroll to the bottom of this gift guide to ENTER TO WIN two day passes for Nakiska Ski Area



Enter to WIN two day passes for Nakiska Ski Area this Winter



Gift Ideas for the Cross Country Family


- Sponsored by All out Kids Gear (with GIVEAWAY)



Ski Passes for your Local Nordic Centre - I'm thrilled that I actually have a seasons pass for the Canmore Nordic Centre this winter, and I plan to get out a LOT mid-week when my son is at school.


A New Thermos for the Trails - Invest in a vacuum insulated thermos (as already mentioned for downhill gift ideas) and bring tea or hot chocolate with you on the trail to stay warm.

Cross country skiing is a great family activity

New Skis (of course) - I'll never forget how happy I was when I received a pair of waxless cross country skis for Christmas a few years ago. (no more wax problems on sticky spring days!)

And there are so many different kinds of cross country skis out there, it shouldn't be hard to think of a new pair your partner would appreciate (skate skis, light touring skis with metal edges, actual skinny Nordic skis if he/she only has wider touring skis...)

And then of course there are the kids, who just won't stop growing!!

And you might be buying new boots to go with the skis.


A Pair of Adjustable Trekking Poles for the Kids - I grew tired of constantly having to buy my son new poles every year or two (for both cross country and downhill skiing.) So last year we just bought him some adjustable trekking poles and he uses one pair of poles for everything!! Brilliant, right?

AND if you scroll to the bottom of this gift guide, you can ENTER TO WIN a pair of Black Diamond "Kids' First Strike" adjustable trekking poles from Canadian company All Out Kids Gear.

One pair of adjustable poles is all this kid uses for all outdoor sports

Ski Clothing and Outerwear Gift Ideas


Sponsored by Altitude Sports (with GIVEAWAYS for every item featured below)




Ski Socks - Can you ever have enough ski socks? And check out these cute Kids' Wintersport Smart Wool Socks.  


Ski Gloves - Skiing is fun when hands are warm. And hands will be toasty in these awesome Kombi Yolo Big Kids' Mittens And note, my son has never had cold hands when wearing Kombi mitts or gloves. It's an amazing brand and the company knows all about warmth!



My son loves his pom pom toque and buff on cold ski days 
A New Toque or Beanie - I am absolutely in love with these North Face Youth Pom Pom Beanies. And I'm a firm believer that you can never ever have too many different toques or knit hats to match every different winter jacket in your closet.


A New Set of Long Underwear for the Kids  - Again, kids grow, and chances are they won't fit last year's base layers anymore. (I know my son doesn't.) Upgrade to this Burton Youth Mini Fleece Set and the kids will be toasty warm on the slopes or trails.


A New Buff to Wear Under a Ski Helmet - Kids tend to chew holes in their buffs (at least my son does) so chances are, your child could use a new ski buff. And for ultimate warmth, check out these Junior Polar Buffs (we swear by fleece buffs in our family.)



AND, if you scroll to the bottom of this gift guide, you can ENTER TO WIN the 5 items mentioned under this section from Canadian company, Altitude Sports. (in boys or girls models based on availability)

Warm toque, fleece buff, and warm gloves for ski day victories



Stocking Stuffers



Hand and foot warmers


Fun granola bars - the expensive ones or flavours that you never buy because they don't come in bulk from Costco.


Fun snacks - Christmas themed chocolate, fun items to take on the trails, or anything the kids beg for (and never get.)


Ski Wax - There's always a new and better ski wax for cross country skiing.

 - and check out this ZUMWax Rub on Ski/Snowboard Wax


Ski Repair Equipment (base repair kits, metal scrapers, repair tools and kits)


Ski Lock- I just received a few of these and look forward to trying them out at the ski hill this winter


Ski Socks - Because you can never have enough pairs of ski socks


And these are purely samples of the amazing selection of ski gear I found with a quick Amazon Search using the magic word "ski."  (and then you can break it down further into cross country, downhill, skis, equipment, etc.)


Take my suggestions and browse to find what works for you. There are dozens of different products available for ski tuning, waxing, carrying and strapping skis, or caring for your skis.

And by ordering off of Amazon, I "might" receive a few dollars as an Affiliate partner.


Load the stockings with items to make skiing more fun this winter


Ski Books 


The book that I have on my Christmas list is Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies - 5th Edition - It is the ultimate ski touring guidebook for cross country skiers looking to get off the groomed and beaten path (and for backcountry skiers looking for a scenic ski tour.)


Follow this link to browse a giant list of other Ski Books off Amazon.ca.

Including these ski books:
- Summits and Icefields - Alpine Ski Tours in the Canadian Rockies
- Backcountry Ski Safety guidebooks
- Avalanche Safety guidebooks
- Ski themed cookbooks
- Tips for teaching kids to ski
- Powder: The Greatest Ski Runs on the Planet
- DIY Ski repair

Buy "Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies" and find hidden trails like this one in Banff

And, if you're looking for some great ski-themed children's books, check out a few of these Ski Books for Kids off of Amazon.ca. 

Top Suggestions for Picture Books would include:
- Ollie's Ski Trip
- Squirrels on Skis
- Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee
- Bunny Slopes
- It's a Day for Ski and Play
- First Tracks

And for chapter books:
- Ski School Sneak (Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew)
- The Little Rippers: Volume 1 - Here come the little rippers
- Go West Little Rippers

And, check out this Skiing Coloring Book!


As mentioned already, if you buy a book or two here off of Amazon, I "might" make a few dollars to order a few for my family too.


Inspire the kids this winter with some fun ski-themed books


Fun Ski-Themed Gift Ideas



Ski-themed tree ornaments - like this cute one of 3 Moose On a Ski Lift Ornament

A mounted photo of one of your favourite family ski days - Take one of your favourite ski photos, take it down to any photography shop, and get it dry mounted for your rec. room. (It would also be great on a child's bedroom wall if it was an epic ski photo of your little ripper.)

A favourite ski map, dry mounted - My son LOVES ski maps. He would love a giant map on his bedroom wall for his favourite ski resort.

Ski Wall Art Decals for the House - And I personally love this Choose Your Destiny  decal.


And again, these contain links to Amazon.ca. Browse around if you want and support my affiliate efforts. 


Never a bad day on skis

GIVEAWAYS



Enter to WIN Two Lift Passes for Nakiska Ski Area, Kananaskis, Alberta


Conditions:

- Contest closes on November 21st. A winner will be notified by the 22nd. If I don't hear from the winner by the 24th, I will choose a new winner.

- Contest is open to all entrants age 18+. You must be able to visit the Nakiska Ski Area this winter, 2017-2018 season.

- The giveaway is valid for two adult lift passes. They will be mailed to the winner, or can be picked up at the Calgary RCR office.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Enter to WIN a Pair of Black Diamond Kids' First Strike Adjustable Trekking Poles from All Out Kids Gear


Conditions:

-  Contest closes on November 21st. A winner will be notified by the 22nd. If I don't hear from the winner by the 24th, I will choose a new winner.

- Contest is open to all Canadian Residents age 18+.

- Free shipping is included inside Canada

- Visit All Out Kids Gear for more information about this product


a Rafflecopter giveaway



Enter to WIN a pair of Kids Wintersport Smart Wool Socks and a Kids' Burton Mini Fleece Long Underwear Set from Altitude Sports 


Conditions:

- Contest closes on November 21st. A winner will be notified by the 22nd. If I don't hear from the winner by the 24th, I will choose a new winner.

- Contest is open to all residents of Canada and the USA age 18+.

- Free shipping is included inside Canada and the United States

- Winner can choose the boys or girls model of each item, based on availability and stock

- See category "Ski Clothing and Outerwear" above for details on each item


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Enter to WIN a pair of Kombi Yolo Big Kids' mittens, a North Face youth pom pom beanie, and a Junior Polar Buff from Altitude Sports


Conditions:

- Contest closes on November 21st. A winner will be notified by the 22nd. If I don't hear from the winner by the 24th, I will choose a new winner.

- Contest is open to all residents of Canada and the USA age 18+.

- Free shipping is included inside Canada and the United States

- Winner can choose the boys or girls model of each item, based on availability and stock

- See category "Ski Clothing and Outerwear" above for details on each item


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Winter on skis. Glorious!

Check out these other Holiday Gift Guides and Giveaways!!

 

Tales of a Mountain Mama - 2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Families

Monday, November 06, 2017

B-Line Indoor Bike Park - Now Open in Calgary

My son has long wished that he could visit bike skills parks or skate parks year round. His dream has now come true with Calgary's first indoor bike park opening its doors at the end of October.

Calgary's new indoor bike park, B-line Indoor Bike Park

B-Line Indoor Bike Park is located in NE Calgary off of Memorial Drive, and it will be "the place to be" this winter for families who don't want to put their bikes away for the season.

Riding the jump lines at B-Line Indoor Bike Park

What to expect from a visit to B-Line Indoor Bike Park



  • A loading dock full of amazing features designed for beginners. You'll find low practice features, small to medium pump tracks, and bumps to test your skills before moving on to the more intermediate terrain in the other rooms

     
  • 4 progressive jumplines that are clearly marked for all levels of riding from beginner to expert

  • A big air room called "The Bar" that reminded my son of a giant skate park. The best part though (for us biking families) is that there are no skateboards or scooters allowed at B-Line. This is purely an indoor BIKE park

     
  • A giant foam pit and Resi. The progressive foam pit has 3 different sized jumps going into it, as well as quarterpipes on each side. The Resi provides the next padded step when you’re ready.

  • Picnic tables and areas to eat snacks or lunch (bring your own food,) and for parents to hang out when not supervising or riding.

  • A public repair stand on site with parts for sale in case you break something while riding

  • Color coded rooms and sections (green for beginner, blue for intermediate/advanced, and black for expert.)


Check out this Video of the Pump Track:




Beginner Area Highlight


My son didn't spend a lot of time in the "true beginner area" but I can see this being a great place for young children on balance bikes or for kids not used to riding on a pump track.

There is a very small pump track in this area that works as a wonderful introduction to test whether your child is ready to move up to the larger more "intermediate" pump track.

Beginner pump track and bumps at B-Line Indoor Bike Park

Parents with novice riders will feel comfortable having their children riding in this area because it's safe to assume there will be no big riders in this area or teenagers ripping around at high speeds. This is a safe zone to work on basic skills needed to move on to the other areas of the park.

And, it should be noted that children aged 3 and under are FREE. So bring them down to the beginner area for an hour or so and you won't have to pay a thing. (And there's no charge for the supervising parent as long as you aren't on a bike.)

Beginner riding area at B-Line Indoor Bike Park


Beginner/Intermediate Pump Track Highlight


While the main pump track would be considered part of the "beginner area," you will see riders of all abilities in this part of the park because everybody loves a pump track! And the one at B-Line promises hours of fun. My son spent a LOT of time here trying to ride over as many bumps in a row as he could without pedaling (a goal when riding on a pump track) and working on the posture of standing with flat pedals.

For a good idea of what the pump track is like, scroll back up to the first video I posted.

And safety tip for this room: both pump track loops are multi-directional. There are no arrows telling kids which direction they should ride. And most of the time, this is not a problem because you should be able to look at the track, and see which direction other kids are riding. However, there are a few blind spots at the back where you can't really see other riders.

My suggestion if visiting the park with young riders: Use the pump track when it's quiet without a lot of traffic on it, stand and watch before riding in, and look carefully to make sure nobody is riding towards you on the loop that you want to ride.

Ideally, in my personal opinion, one loop would be marked for clockwise riding, and one would be marked for counter clockwise riding. This way, nobody would be at risk of getting hit by another rider, but everybody would still have freedom to do a loop in the direction that is most comfortable for their style.

Practicing on the pump track at B-Line Indoor Bike Park

 

The Jump Lines Highlight


There are 4 progressive jumplines, marked green for beginner and intermediate, blue for advanced, and black for expert.

Each line is also clearly marked with arrows for where to start/finish. This gave me peace of mind that my son wouldn't collide with another rider here, or even worse, take out a preschooler!

My son spent close to an hour on the two easier jumplines, with breaks to go play in the other parts of the park. He loved the table top style jumps that he could practice jumping. And while he wasn't quite able to jump them yet, I can see that he would progress quickly if we spent a few more afternoons at the park.

Kids learn by doing, and the jump section of this park is designed to be progressive for all ages and abilities.

Jump lines at B-Line Indoor Bike Park (clearly marked for beginners to advanced riders)


The Bar (Street Section) Highlight


The big air room called "The Bar" reminded my son of a giant skate park. He was riding up the walls, playing on ramps and mini half pipes, and trying to do jumps.

The best part though (for us biking families) is that there are no skateboards or scooters allowed at B-Line. This is purely an indoor BIKE park.

Skate Park and Street features at B-Line Indoor Bike Park

From a safety perspective, I could see this room being potentially "dangerous" for younger riders if it was too busy. We had the park pretty much to ourselves when we arrived so my son was able to freely play in this room without risk of getting hit (or of hitting somebody else.)

Realistically speaking though, there are no arrows on the street or in a skate park, nobody is standing around directing traffic at a skate park or at a bike skills park, and you have to learn to communicate with other riders. There will always be risk when practicing "street style biking." While B-Line probably could take steps to make this room "safer," I don't believe that would ever be their intention, and I'm sure they didn't really design this room to be "toddler friendly." It is the "Big Air" room after all.

If the park was exceptionally busy, or if this room was full of older teens doing big jumps, I would encourage my son to just play in a different room. Or we'd do what we did on our recent visit - and arrive early as soon as the park opened for the afternoon.

Riding around in the "Bar" at B-Line Indoor Bike Park

The Foam Pit and Resi Feature 


I have to confess that I couldn't have told you the first thing about a "Resi" when I first visited the park but I've since done my research and I can basically explain that you'll start out jumping into the soft foam pit, move up to the Resi, a soft foam landing, and then graduate to the standard box jumps (where if you fall, you get badly banged up!)

Looking down on the descent ramp to jump into the foam pit at B-Line Bike Park

For families, the foam pit was exceptionally cool. There are 3 different sized jumps going into it, the first one (colored blue) barely a jump. You push or ride your bike up a steep ramp, ride down the ramp (without braking,) ride up a much shorter ramp and then sort of fall into the foam pit (getting off your bike after you land.)

In theory, my 8-year old could have done the foam pit jump, and plenty of younger kids were doing it, but my son wasn't sure if he could commit to the "not braking" the entire time, and wasn't sure what the landing would feel like. Again, as with everything at B-Line though, it's all progressive and he'll work his way up to it on a future visit.

Foam Pit and Resi at B-Line Indoor Bike Park

Additional Features at B-Line


There is also a skills area in the park (similar to what you'd find at many mountain bike skills parks) where you can practice riding across skinny logs, planks, learn to ride teeter-totters, and improve your balance. They even have double teeter totters (which I had never seen before.)

Bringing mountain bike skills up to the next level at B-Line Indoor Bike Park


Recommended Minimum Age and Biking Ability for Visiting the Park


The park is suitable for all abilities and ages with progressive features for kids as young as 2 or 3 years of age on balance bikes, all the way up to expert BMX riders.

Children 7 and under must be supervised at all times but parents don't have to pay if they aren't riding.

Practicing on a fun feature in the Big Air Room

Recommended Equipment for Visiting the Park


It is recommended that you either rent a BMX bike or a dirt jumper on site, or that you bring your own bike with you. If bringing your own bike, please make sure it's been cleaned since your last mountain biking trip.

Regular mountain bikes will work fine in the park, but it is highly recommended that all bikes have hand brakes (rather than coaster brakes.)

Adults can also use their own full-sized mountain bikes, but again, would do best on a smaller BMX style rental bike from the park.

Helmets are required at all times inside the park and padding is highly recommended. Helmets and bike padding come with all rentals from the park.

Riding on the pump track at B-Line Indoor Bike Park

My Overall Opinion of the Park 


My 8-year old loves skate parks and bike skills park. It is therefore no stretch that he would LOVE B-Line. I expect we will visit once a month over the winter months until we can ride outside again.  And my son has already told me that he wants to have his birthday party here. (Yes, they do those too!)

The only thing that would prevent my family from visiting weekly (other than the drive across the city since we live in the NW) is the rather "high" cost of visiting the park. Admission is comparable and actually more affordable than many other family attractions in the city, but it doesn't mean that it's "cheap" family entertainment.

We'll be visiting a lot this winter so that my son can ride around the "bar" as you can watch in the video below.



 

Admission to B-Line Indoor Bike Park


A full day at B-Line Indoor Bike Park is $30 for riders ages 8+ (kids ages 4-7 are half price with kids 3 and under free.)

The $30 day pass is comparable to Winsport's Canada Olympic Park where youth pay roughly the same price for a full day of skiing. Adults however pay $46, making B-Line the more affordable option here.

Meanwhile, one hour at the Calgary Climb Park, The Flying Squirrel Trampoline Park, or Inja Nation is $20. (Which is a lot for just one hour, as compared to $30 for a whole day.)

So overall, admission prices to B-Line are not completely out to lunch with what other facilities in Calgary are charging. But, it still doesn't mean you're in for a cheap day and kids may need to start saving their allowance money if they want to visit often.

For other admission options (including annual passes) visit the B-Line Indoor Bike Park website.

Street style riding at B-Line Indoor Bike Park

Personal Recommendations and Thoughts for the Park


  • I'd like to see a "family pass" option for daily admission to the park. $60 will be out of reach to many families with two kids wanting to ride. (I'm lucky that I only have one child, but I know families with three kids - who will never be able to afford a visit to this park.)

  • I'd love to see a discounted "early bird" admission option for riders who want to visit the park between 3-5pm before the evening rush.

  • I've had families asking me about a "punch card" system where you'd get a discounted daily rate if you pay for multiple admissions up front (without having to buy a full annual membership.)

  • I've also had families asking about a special time for the toddler and preschool crowd without bigger kids in the park. Perhaps this would be something to look into once a week. (Even an hour before the park opens to the regular public from 2-3pm.)

  • I'm hoping that there will be lessons offered in the future for school-aged kids and teens who would like to learn progressive skills including jumping and trick riding.

  • Finally, I've had questions about whether the park would be able to provide gift cards or ride vouchers for Christmas presents. I think this is a great idea and I'd love to put some in my own child's stocking.
Playing on the Jumplines at B-Line Indoor Bike Park

For More Information


Please visit the B-Line Indoor Bike Park website for full information on hours, pricing, the facility, and bike rentals.



Disclaimer: We were given complimentary admission to the park for this review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Gotta do THIS - November 2017 Edition

I said it last year, and it's still true that November is one of my favourite months out of the whole year.  Our first ski day, first ice skating day, and first winter hike of the season will all happen in the month of November.

November means "Skating Season" in the Canadian Rockies (photo location: Vermilion Lakes, Banff)

Shoulder season is definitely tricky but I still LOVE November in the Canadian Rockies, and I'm excited to share my favourite things to do this month with you.

Gotta do THIS - November in the Canadian Rockies 

 

 

 1. Visit Calgary's New Indoor Bike Park


This is the only activity I'm featuring this month that will not involve having to touch snow or ice.

Calgary finally has an indoor bike park and its doors have just opened as of the end of October. B-Line Indoor Bike Park is located in NE Calgary off of Memorial Drive, and it will be "the place to be" this winter for families who like to spend their summer months at bike skills parks, skate parks, or BMX tracks. 

I'll be doing a full review in the next week or two, but in the meantime, read below to see what you can expect from a visit to B-Line Indoor Bike Park.





Visit B-Line Indoor Bike Park to find:


  • A loading dock full of amazing features designed for beginners. You'll find low practice features, small to medium pump tracks, and bumps to test your skills before moving on to the more intermediate terrain in the other rooms

  • A big air room called "The Bar" that reminded my son of a giant skate park. The best part though (for us biking families) is that there are no skateboards or scooters allowed at B-Line. This is purely an indoor BIKE park

  • 4 progressive jumplines that are marked green for beginner and intermediate, blue for advanced, and black for expert. Each jumpline is also clearly marked with arrows for where to start/finish (allowing the parent peace of mind that your child won't collide with another rider here)

  • A giant foam pit and Resi. The progressive foam pit has 3 different sized jumps going into it, as well as quarterpipes on each side. The Resi provides the next padded step when you’re ready.
Kids climbing the walls? It's encouraged at B-Line Bike Park!

The park is suitable or all abilities and ages with progressive features suitable for young tots on balance bikes up to expert BMX riders. Children 7 and under must be supervised at all times.

It is recommended that you either rent a BMX bike or a dirt jumper on site, or that you bring your own bike with you. Regular mountain bikes will work fine in the park, but it is highly recommended that all bikes have hand brakes (rather than coaster brakes.) Adults can also use their own full-sized mountain bikes, but again, would do best on a smaller BMX style rental bike from the park.

Finally, helmets are required at all times inside the park.

Please visit the B-Line Indoor Bike Park website for full information on hours, pricing, and bike rentals. And know that non-riding parents are welcome inside the park without having to pay.

Practicing on the beginner jumpline at B-Line Bike Park

 

2. Plan an Early Winter Retreat in Kananaskis


November is one of my favourite months to go away for a weekend because everything is blissfully quiet. It's not quite ski season yet, the Christmas season is still around the corner, and the summer peak travel season is long behind us.

We will be spending a weekend in Spray Valley Provincial Park outside of Canmore, staying at Mount Engadine Lodge this month.  The Spray Valley always gets lots of early snow by November and so we're super excited to launch the winter season with some cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and playing in the snow based out of a rustic mountain lodge. Hello paradise!

Snowshoeing across the meadow below Mount Engadine Lodge

The lodge has guest rooms for couples inside the main building, but families will want to either reserve the Whiskeyjack Cabin (a private cabin with two rooms, one with a queen bed and one with two twin beds,) or else one of the suites in the main lodge (suites have a queen bed and a pull out sofa for the kids.)

To read about our previous winter adventures at Mount Engadine Lodge, check out these stories:

Paradise at Mount Engadine Lodge

Escape to Snow Paradise in Kananaskis 

Cabin accommodations at Mount Engadine Lodge in the Spray Valley

And for families on a budget, I recommend trying the yurt camping option at the lodge. It is $125 per person per night to stay in the lodge yurt (which sleeps 4 people) and this includes all of your meals while at the lodge (afternoon tea, dinner, breakfast the next day, and a packed lunch to go.)

You can read about our winter camping adventure in the yurt here:  Yurt Camping in Kananaskis at Mount Engadine Lodge 

Yurt Camping at Mount Engadine Lodge, Spray Valley Provincial Park
 
Another affordable way to spend a weekend at Mount Engadine Lodge is to book for a Saturday night at the lodge. This way, you can drive out Saturday morning to go skiing, hiking, or snowshoeing, arrive at the lodge in time for afternoon tea, and then you'll be there for dinner + breakfast the following day. Spend some more time in the snow Sunday and you've basically spent an entire weekend in the Spray Valley (only having to pay for one night of accommodations.)

Other ways to enjoy Mount Engadine Lodge this month:


  •  Register for a Yoga Retreat at the lodge on the weekend of November 23 - 26th. Lodging and all meals are included with the retreat.

  • Visit for Sunday brunch and then go skiing or hiking the valley.

  • Drop in for afternoon tea after your winter adventure in the Spray Valley.

For more information on lodging, availability, and rates, please visit the Mount Engadine Lodge website.

 Follow this link for information on winter activities in Spray Valley Provincial Park

And you'll also be in close proximity to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (where you'll find the nearby trailhead for Chester Lake.) 

Snowshoeing to Chester Lake, Spray Valley, Kananaskis

3. Discover the Magic of Banff in November



One of the biggest events coming to Banff this month is the annual Santa Claus Parade. (and yes, it used to take place in December but it's been moved up a month.)

Celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season in Banff (photo: Paul Zizka and Banff Lake Louise Tourism)

This year, the Banff Santa Claus Parade takes place at 6pm on Saturday, November 18th.

Visit the Banff Lake Louise Tourism website for more information on the Santa Claus Parade of Lights.

Santa Claus Parade of Lights in Banff

 

While you're in Banff...

  • Spend the night so that you don't have to drive home after the parade in the dark. (seriously, we hit a deer one year so it's worth the expense.)

  • Visit the Banff Gondola! Enjoy mountain top dining with views over the Bow Valley, hike to the top of Sanson's Lookout, take photos on the roof top observation deck, and visit the new interpretive centre with many touch-friendly exhibits for the children. And, it's free to ride the gondola down if you hike the Sulphur Mountain Trail up. Just pick up a free one-way ticket down at the top.

  • Visit the Hot Springs (especially nice after the parade or a visit to the Banff gondola when you'll need warming up)

  • Enjoy a hike on one of Banff's easy trails. Some of our late fall favourites are the Sundance Trail, the Fenland Trail, and Stewart Canyon at Lake Minnewanka.

  •  Hike to the top of Tunnel Mountain, the easiest summit to reach in Banff.

  •  Take a trip out to Johnston Canyon and enjoy the crowd-free trail! (Read about our winter visit to Johnston Canyon here.)

  • Return for the Banff Christmas Market the weekend of November 24th - 26th
On top of the world at the Banff Gondola

** Note you will want ice cleats for winter hiking in November. And I recommend the Kahtoola Microspikes brand. (Note this is an affiliate link to Amazon.ca and I may receive a very tiny amount of money if you shop from them.)

And, if you're looking for XS sized spikes for children, I heard that Switching Gear in Canmore has a fresh shipment in (which will sell out quickly.)

Hiking the Lake Minnewanka Trail to Stewart Canyon


4. Celebrate the Beginning of Skating Season in the Rockies


There are many outdoor ponds, lakes, and rinks in the Rockies that get cleared of snow and maintained by park or resort staff through the winter, usually starting mid to late December. November however gives us a different experience where we can often experience "natural skating" on lakes that are not maintained or cleared of snow.

We often get a brief window mid to late November where some mountain lakes have frozen (thick enough to skate on) without being snow covered yet. Some years, it never happens. Other years, we get a magical window where the ice on certain mountain lakes is smooth like glass and 100% snow free.

November skating on Lac Des Arcs in the Bow Valley

Johnson Lake in Banff has always been one of the first lakes to freeze and my family has skated on it annually for the past 6 years now.

Other options for natural skating are Vermilion Lakes just outside the Town of Banff, the pond at the Grotto Mountain Day Use Area outside Canmore on the Highway 1A, Gap Lake outside Canmore on the Highway 1A, or the Ghost Reservoir outside of Cochrane (also on the Highway 1A, and often good all winter long.)

And if you get real lucky, you might even be able to skate on Lac Des Arcs in the Bow Valley (as we did last year.)

Skating across Johnson Lake, Banff

For more inspiration check out the following two stories:

November is my favourite month to visit Banff 

Ice Skating on the Ghost Lake Reservoir - often great for skating all winter long


And for those wondering, "how do I know if it's thick enough to skate on?" Or, "Is it safe?" - check out the Ice Safety information on the Town of Banff's website.

November on the Vermilion Lake, Banff


5. Launch the Winter Hiking Season at Highwood Pass in Kananaskis


By November I'm always longing for snow and would drive hours to find it. Fortunately, we don't actually have to go that far though because Highwood Pass is reached on the highest paved road in Canada, and gets a lot of early season snow!

Snowshoeing up to Elbow Lake, Highwood Pass

We head out to the Highwood Pass area mid to late November every year to go snowshoeing and to enjoy some backcountry sledding.

Elbow Lake in November, Highwood Pass

I've written a LOT on this topic already so please visit these stories below on "November at Highwood Pass:"

Early Winter Snowshoeing at Highwood Pass

Family Snowshoeing Adventures - Elbow Lake

November Hiking and Backcountry Sledding at Highwood Pass 


Winter wonderland at Elbow Lake, Highwood Pass

And, make sure you get out by the end of the month. The road closes at the end of November and will be closed until late June next year. There is a very brief window to snowshoe up to Elbow Lake or Ptarmigan Cirque while you can still drive to the parking lots.

Also, consult a Kananaskis visitor centre before heading up to Ptarmigan Cirque in November. There can be avalanche danger in this basin if you hike too far in. We always stop at the beginning of the cirque and don't hike any further back. Elbow Lake is the safer option as long as you stop at the lake and don't go exploring too much further.

Ptarmigan Cirque in November, Highwood Pass


6. Get the Skis out for Early Season Snow


This might actually be the biggest reason I love November. My skis FINALLY come up from the basement. We got so excited for this two years ago that we were practically cross country skiing on dirt at Kananskis Village on November 6th! (the earliest I've ever been out skiing!)

Desperate to ski!

Top 3 Places to Find Early Season Snow for Skiing:


1. Ski Close at Nakiska Ski Area


For those who enjoy downhill skiing, most resorts will open in November. Nakiska Ski Area is very excited to be the first ski hill in Canada opening for the season this year with a preview weekend set for November 4th and 5th.

Enjoy skiing off the gold chair (with access from the Olympic Chair which you'll ride both up and down.)

For inspiration, check out this recent story: 5 Reasons to Make Nakiska your Local Ski Hill this Winter.

Early Season Skiing at Nakiska Ski Area

2. Plan a Cross Country Ski Weekend at Lake Louise


The Moraine Lake Road at Lake Louise is always one of the first ski trails to be groomed and track set each season. The Great Divide Trail is another early season favourite in the area. Both trails should be good to go by mid-November (and skiers have already been enjoying both trails without the grooming as of early November.)

Skiing on the Moraine Lake Road / Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography

Rent one of many private rooms at the Lake Louise Hostel and enjoy being able to ski right out the hostel door onto great ski trails. Our favourite trail is the Tramline Trail which begins up at the lake and descends down to the hostel in an easy 4.8 km (all downhill!)

Ski In/Ski Out Accommodations at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre and Hostel

Visit the Parks Canada website to find out more about cross country skiing at Lake Louise.

And to read more about accommodations at the Lake Louise Hostel, where we'll be spending a weekend this month, check out this story from last winter: Family Guide to the Lake Louise Ski Resort. (Which has a huge section on our stay at the Lake Louise Hostel.)

I also recommend reading Family Cross Country Ski Trips - Our Favourite Destinations Near Calgary

And check out this story as well - Family Cross Country Skiing at Lake Louise.  

Easy family cross country skiing at Lake Louise

3. Access the Higher Cross Country Trails of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park from Highway 40


Here is another option for this month before Highway 40 closes over Highwood Pass. If you make it out to the park before the end of November, you can continue past the normal turn off for the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes (where all of the groomed ski trails in the park are located.)

Continue past the winter gates on Highway 40 for roughly 8 km until you come to a pull out on the right hand side of the highway. This is where you'll put your skis on to access the Pocaterra Ski Trail from higher up (rather than starting at the Pocaterra Hut where there is never snow until December.)

Not bad for November skiing!

Ski along the Pocaterra Ski Trail until you reach the junction with the Whiskeyjack Trail. From here you can continue on the Tyrwhitt Trail and up to the Lookout if you want.

We did this outing last November and skied as far as the Tyrwhitt junction before returning. It was a short ski day (probably 6 km at most) but was perfect for a November trip.

Note the trails will not be groomed or track set. This is natural early season skiing.

Visit the Alberta Parks website for more information on the ski trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

Early season skiing in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Other Trail Options for November Cross Country Skiing:


  • Frozen Thunder at the Canmore Nordic Centre. This trail is approximately 2 km in distance and is groomed/track set now. It is open to the public in the afternoons through the week or all day on weekends. Admission fees are charged.

  • Kananaskis Village Ski Trails. While they won't likely be groomed or track set, it can still be fun to go for a short ski around the Terrace Loop in early November after a good dump of snow.

  • West Bragg Creek Ski Trails.  This is a nice close option, and I've skied here most years in November. Don't expect "amazing" snow or any grooming/track setting if you go too early, but in November it's just good to get out.

  •  The Cascade Valley in Banff. You can always ski up the Cascade Valley in Banff by mid-November. This old fire road requires very little snow to be enjoyed on skis and we almost always make our first trip out in November. The trail starts from the Lake Minnewanka Parking lot.
Early Season skiing in the Cascade Valley, Banff

For trail reports, trip reports, and the latest on where people are skiing, visit Skier Bob's website. It is a phenomenal resource for the Kananaskis and Banff areas.

Early season skiing at West Bragg Creek, Kananaskis


Disclaimer and partnerships


 My son received free riding at the B-Line Park so that I could promote their new business. 

We will also receive accommodations from Hosteling International and from Mount Engadine Lodge this month to assist with future trip writing and reviews. 

Finally, I will receive free skiing at Nakiska Ski Area this winter so that I can promote the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies for another winter, and as an Alberta Parks Ambassador, I will receive free skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre this winter.

As always, all opinions are my own and I have not been paid to promote any of the businesses in this story. 

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