Monday, November 19, 2018

Winter Guide to the Columbia Valley (Golden, Radium Hot Springs, Invermere - and beyond!)

For those of us living in Calgary, it is a 3 hour drive to reach either the Village of Radium Hot Springs or the Town of Golden (both, fabulous destinations for a winter getaway and fairly easy to access Friday after work.)

Skating on the world's longest ice skating path, Invermere

Without much extra distance you can also reach the Community of Invermere, Panorama Mountain Resort, or the resort community of Fairmont Hot Springs.

Drive an hour further south and you'll be in the small Bavarian themed City of Kimberley, an ideal destination for a long weekend or school holiday.

I've organized this guide by town, community, or resort area starting in the north and working my way south through the Columbia Valley.

Fat biking at Nipika Mountain Resort

The Town of Golden 


This is one area of the Columbia Valley that we have yet to really explore in winter. We're working on that this winter with plans to spend at least one weekend here.

Below are some of the key winter adventures you can find for your family in the Town of Golden:



Dog sledding in Golden (photo: Julie Brown and Golden Dog Sled Adventures)



For more information please visit the Tourism Golden website.

And here you'll find more information on accommodations. There are plenty of affordable options including hostels, guest houses, and B&Bs.

Wapta Falls (photo: Paige Roseberry)


The Village of Radium Hot Springs 


We spend a few nights here every year for New Years and frequently come out for the Family Day long weekend in February as well.

Winter activities I recommend are below:


Radius Retreat Winter Yurt Camping 

  • Try winter yurt camping at Radius Retreat. They have six yurts (the closest one is a 300 metre walk from the parking lot and the most remote one is a 2.5 km hike.)

  • Take a day trip to Nipika Mountain Resort Invermere, Panorama Mountain Resort, or Fairmont Hot Springs.

    The beauty of staying in Radium Hot Springs is that you're at the centre of everything. You could even go skiing in Kimberley or Golden for the day.

    Use Radium as your base camp for adventure across the entire Columbia Valley.


For more information, visit the Tourism Radium Hot Springs website.

For accommodations, consider renting a condo from Airbnb or Owner Direct. There are many condos in this village and it allows you to cook your own meals.

Winter at Radium Hot Springs (photo: Tourism Radium Hot Springs)

Nipika Mountain Resort 


Nipika Mountain Resort is an eco-resort is located approximately 45 minutes outside Radium Hot Springs. Here you'll find over 50 km of groomed ski trails and 25 km of dedicated fat bike trails (groomed to perfection) along with snowshoe trails as well.

Fat biking at Nipika Mountain Resort

Stay overnight and you can ski, snowshoe, or bike out the front door of your own cozy cabin. There's even a small pond on site for ice skating.

You can also visit Nipika as a short excursion from Radium Hot Springs, using all their trails for a small day use fee. There is a great rental shop on site as well and they have two youth fat bikes (a 20" bike and a 24" bike.)

Ski in/out cabins at Nipika Mountain Resort

Visiting Nipika is always one of our winter highlights, and there's no other place I like fat biking more.

Read more: Family Fat Biking at Nipika Mountain Resort

Read more: Everything for a Family to Love at Nipika Mountain Resort 

Read more: The Ultimate Girls' Ski Getaway at Nipika Mountain Resort 

Skiing over the natural bridge at Nipika Mountain Resort 

The Community of Invermere


Winter Adventure on the Lake Windermere Whiteway


The biggest highlight here is skating on the Lake Windermere Whiteway between the towns of Invermere and Windermere on the world’s longest ice-skating path. The full track is 34 km long when the lake is fully frozen, and the Whiteway promotes community spirit as the entire valley gathers in the same location to skate or ski around the lake, with dedicated paths for both cross-country skiing and ice skating.

Skating on the Lake Windermere Whiteway

Local cyclists also like riding around the lake on fat bikes with studded tires, and the snowmobile community is out in force as well, using the middle of the lake as their recreational ground.

A $5 donation fee is requested from all Whiteway users (or a seasons pass can be purchased for locals) to support the efforts of the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club who maintains the Whiteway.

This is a major highlight for us on every visit to the valley in winter and I have dreams of skating the entire path in a day. (some year...)

And you can watch a fabulous video of the experience here on the Columbia Valley website.

For up to date conditions on the Whiteway, visit the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club website. 

Sunset on the Lake Windermere Whiteway

Skating and Skiing on the Lake Lillian Whiteway


Most people will be completely satisfied with the Lake Windermere Whiteway, but if you want a smaller lake to skate or ski on, Lake Lillian also gets groomed and tracked for skiing (and sometimes for ice-skating) by the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club. It's located on the road up to Panorama and is only 10 minutes outside town.

More information on Lake Lillian can be found on the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club site.

Note that as with the Lake Windermere Whiteway, a $5 donation is requested per user for use of the Lake Lillian Whiteway.

And while we always stay in Radium Hot Springs, you'll find plenty of condos to rent in Invermere as well if you'd prefer to be closer to the Whiteways or to Panorama Mountain Resort (below)

Skiing on the Lake Lillian Whiteway 


Panorama Mountain Resort


I love ski or hike in/out locations, and this is a prime contender for one of the best spots to enjoy a variety of winter sports without ever having to drive anywhere. Walk out the door of your cozy condo in the Panorama Village and enjoy downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or fat biking – with rentals for all sports on site. With the amount of options here, you might just have to stay for a week!

First tracks at Panorama Mountain Resort

Panorama Mountain Resort is a short 20 minute drive if you are staying in Invermere as well and we usually visit this resort as a day trip from Radium to go cross country skiing over New Years.

Rent a condo in the village and you'll enjoy relaxing at the end of each day in the Panorama Springs Hot Pools, included with all stays in the Panorama Village.

Panorama Springs Hot Pools 

Read more: Family Guide to Panorama Mountain Resort 

Read more: Panorama Mountain Resort (much more than downhill skiing) - Cross-country skiing and fat biking guide

Hale Hut, Panorama Mountain Resort


Fairmont Hot Springs


We love the pools at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. I like to soak in the hot pool while my boys swim and play around in the warm pool (situated side by side so I can keep an eye on them while I’m relaxing.) In the summer there’s also a dive tank with high and low board. In the winter, this small pool is still open (minus the boards) and it’s a great way to cool off after you’ve been in the hot pool too long.

Fairmont Hot Springs in winter (photo: Fairmont Hot Springs Resort)

Spend the day skiing at the Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Hill and you'll receive day passes to visit the hot springs after as well. (Something you definitely won't get in Banff!)

Plan to visit this area a few times over the winter? Check out the H2O cards. Pay $99 and ski for three days at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. Passes include entrance to the hot springs after your ski day as well. Win win!! And kids are only $59. (You can also buy a seven day pass for $199 adults, $89 kids.)

Deadline for purchasing H2O cards is December 24th.

Finally, Fairmont Hot Springs is a lovely family-friendly resort and I highly recommend spending a weekend here at the lodge

Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Hill


Looking for other activities to do in the area:


  • Hike to Findlay Falls near the Village of Canal Flats - A high clearance AWD or 4WD vehicle may be needed if it's recently snowed. You'll also want snowshoes if the trail hasn't been packed down.

  • Visit Lussier Hot Springs, natural hot spring pools located near Canal Flats. They are accessed via a rough logging road followed by a short hike. - You may want an AWD or 4WD vehicle in the winter and snow tires would be very helpful.

  • Explore the Spirit Trail, an old historic road that connects Fairmont with Canal Flats. Hike as far as you want and return the same way. Snowshoes may be necessary but chances are you should be fine in winter boots for this trail.

  • Take a walk on the new Markin MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail which will connect Invermere and Fairmont when completed. The first 5 segments have been completed from the Invermere side and you'll find the trail off Westside Road. 

Findlay Falls Hike 


Kimberley


Kimberley is one of my favourite mountain towns with a quaint Bavarian themed plaza located downtown.

Below are a few highlights from a winter trip to Kimberley:

  • Go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the Kimberley Nature Park, a large natural area located completely inside city limits and containing more than 30 miles of trails for skiing, hiking, or snowshoeing.

    It's also the largest municipal park in all of BC.

  • Spend the day downhill skiing at the Kimberley Alpine Resort. And I highly recommend staying at one of the ski in/ski out condos on the property where you'll be close to both the alpine resort and the nordic centre up above.

Kimberley Alpine Resort

  • Go cross-country skiing at the Kimberley Nordic Centre, just up the road from the Alpine Resort. The Nordic Centre has 30 km of groomed trails and the Kimberley Nature Park is also accessible from this centre for backcountry touring or snowshoeing.

    You'll also find night skiing on a 3 km loop (which I found to be awesome while I was staying at the Alpine Resort down the road.)

    Note that there are trail fees to ski at the Nordic Centre.

  • Join a fat bike or snowshoe tour at the Kimberley Alpine Resort. The Trickle Creek Snowshoe Tour is family-friendly and you'll enjoy a hot drink and s'mores on your outing. There's also a Kootenay Haus Chocolate Fondue and Snowshoe Tour where you'll ride up the chairlift for a gentle snowshoe tour up top followed by chocolate fondue.

    Adults can join a fat bike tour across the snowy Trickle Creek Golf Course with a hot drink and s'mores. (The resort has fat bikes to rent, but unfortunately only for adults.)

  • Plan at least one dinner in the downtown Platzl. My personal favourite restaurant is the Pedal and Tap where I’m obsessed with their Vietnamese pulled pork subs with mucked-up fries. My son is a huge fan of their spaghetti balls and I have been known to plan ski trips to Kimberley around our family’s love of this restaurant.

    Tip: Dine early because I’m not the only one who loves this restaurant, and the dining room is small.
Snowshoeing through the Kimberley Nature Park (photo: Kimberley Tourism)

Read: Family Guide to Kimberley Alpine Resort

Read: The Ultimate Family Ski Weekend at Kimberley Alpine Resort 


Winter in the Platzl downtown Kimberley 

Planning to return in Summer? Check out the summer edition of this story:

Read: The Best of the Columbia Valley (Radium Hot Springs to Invermere - and beyond) 



Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A Holiday Gift Guide for Active Kids (with giveaways)

I'm back with another one of my annual holiday gift guides, and this year I've decided to keep the theme more general, focusing on fun gifts to keep our kids active all year long, outside (and even inside on those cold winter days.)

Get the kids outside year round to be active, happy, and healthy

I've organized gift ideas below by category/sport, and yes, there are some giveaways. Read to the bottom to enter the contests.

All links go to the product or company website. A few links go to the Amazon website (If you choose to purchase anything off Amazon I might make a few pennies off the purchase, but please feel free to shop wherever works for your family.

You'll also find many links for products off the All Out Kids Gear website, where I'm an affiliate partner (so shop from them and I might be able to buy a fancy Starbucks drink or two this Christmas.)

Finally, Altitude Sports has been a huge supporter of this blog so you'll find links to their website as well where you can order quality outdoor gear and clothing online across Canada.

Holiday Gift Guide for Active Kids


Kids on Bikes - Gift ideas for kids who love mountain biking and cycling


- with giveaway from B-Line Indoor Bike Park 



The BIG Gift: A New Bike


Prevelo Bikes ships their bikes for free (including to Canada,) and they make amazing bikes (engineered specifically for youth!)

You can read all about my son's Prevelo Zulu Four here: What to Look for in your Child's Next Bike (and what to skip!)  - note I have partnered with Prevelo Bikes this year as an Ambassador.

And you can check out the complete line of Prevelo bikes here.

You can also order them online from All out Kids Gear in Alberta (where you'll also get free shipping.)

My son was a pretty happy biker when he got his new Prevelo bike this past spring

One cool thing about Prevelo is that you get to choose between two different lines of bikes (the more affordable Alpha series, and the more technical Zulu series.) Have children that are not getting big air in the bike park and like casual pathway riding or easy mountain biking? Purchase one of the Alpha bikes and know that you're getting a quality bike without some of the fancier components your child might not need.

And it's your choice if you want to put the bike together for the big "Christmas morning reveal" or if you want to wrap the box (which would make for one very large present to be opened.)

AND all Prevelo bikes are now available (and in stock) for order from the Prevelo website.

Invest in quality mountain bikes for active kids who love to ride

Other Gifts for Kids Who Love Biking




And a few tips for getting the kids out on bikes year round:

First, consider renting fat bikes for a day (or a weekend) from Nomad Mobile Gear Rentals in Calgary (they have one youth 24" fat bike for rent.) 

Biking can be a fun activity year round 

Or, visit B-Line, Calgary's indoor bike park where you can bike for the entire day for $30. (Much cheaper than a ski lift ticket.)


And ENTER TO WIN a family day pass (for up to three children living in the same household) for B-Line Indoor Bike Park.

*Giveaways at the bottom of this gift guide

Conquering the beginner jump line at B-Line Indoor Bike Park


Kids on the Trails - Gift ideas to keep kids hiking year round 


- with giveaway from All Out Kids Gear 


The BIG Gift: A New Backpack 

All out Kids Gear has a great assortment of backpacks from kids' starter packs up to hydration packs and overnight packs for backpacking.

My son uses a small hydration pack for our day hikes but has a Deuter Fox 30 for overnight trips. We love this backpack and are pleased with the amount our son can carry with it.

And, ENTER TO WIN a backpack of your choice (maximum $100 value.)

See the full collection of backpacks at All out Kids Gear here

*Giveaways at the bottom of this gift guide

Backpacks make excellent Christmas gifts for active kids


Other Gifts for Kids who Like Hiking, Snowshoeing, and Backpacking




Get the kids some snowshoes and enjoy year round hiking!


Winter Kids - Gift ideas to keep kids happy and warm all winter long


- With giveaway from Altitude Sports 


I have lots of suggestions here for kids who want to play outside all winter long while staying warm



And, ENTER TO WIN a youth Icebreaker base layer set of your choice and a set of youth Icebreaker ski socks from Altitude Sports.

Check out the selection of youth Icebreaker products from Altitude Sports here.

*Giveaways at the bottom of this gift guide


Dress the kids warm and get out to play! 

Crag Kids - Gift ideas for kids who love rock climbing (inside or out)


- with giveaway from the Calgary Climbing Centre


Here are a few of my top suggestions here:

Climbing shoes make great Christmas gifts


And, ENTER TO WIN three climb park passes from the Calgary Climbing Centre for either the Hanger Location or the Rocky Mountain Location. (and there will two separate giveaways, one for each location)

Read more about the Calgary Climbing Centre's Climb Parks here. (no climbing experience is required to use these parks and they are fabulous for children.)

*Giveaways at the bottom of this gift guide

Climbing helmets are great for scrambling and hiking too!

Ski Kids - Gift ideas for kids who enjoy downhill and cross-country skiing


- with giveaway from Trail Blazers Outdoor Store in Cochrane 

The BIG Gift: New Skis and Boots


This is the obvious choice, right? Seriously though, a pair of skis makes for a great Christmas gift if your family wants to get into cross-country skiing. Buy the skis, boots, and poles, and then you're set with free skiing the rest of the winter. 

Buy adjustable poles to cut down on one cost (one pair will last for years and can be used for both cross-country and downhill skiing along with hiking as well.)

And if you're buying downhill skis, consider Roces adjustable ski boots that expand to fit your child for several years.

And need to save a few pennies? Check out the local consignment stores. Your child likely won't care if their skis or boots aren't brand new. I bought my son's cross-country boots second hand from Trail Blazers in Cochrane this year.


And ENTER TO WIN a $50 Gift Card from Trail Blazers.

*Giveaways at the bottom of this gift guide


Get the kids on the slopes with new ski gear for Christmas 

Other Gifts for Kids who Love Skiing



Ski goggles make an excellent Christmas gift

Little Campers - Gift ideas for kids who love camping



I have lots of suggestions for you here:

  • A new headlamp (we're always losing ours!)

  • A new sleeping bag (kids grow, right?)

  • A slackline for car camping trips next summer

  • A hammock for next season's camping trips (kids LOVE playing around in hammocks!)

  • Hut booties! (the best thing for winter hut trips) - my son has a pair of XS hut booties

  • A fun camping themed water bottle from MEC

  • A badminton set for the campsite next year (Go into any Walmart and they're marked down to ridiculously low prices right now.) - Alternately, any outdoor game set would be fun for camping and you should get good deals now on end of season clearance

  • A fishing rod! (Something my son just discovered he enjoyed this summer while backpacking) - My son has the Junior Ugly Stik rod and we've been satisfied with it. 

A fishing rod is a great gift idea for active kids 

Active Kids - General gift ideas



Below are some random ideas I had for year round active play:

  • A new sled! (sleds get cracked, broken, etc. Then there's just the "it's a new sled!!!" factor

    And, check out this cool GoFloats Winter Snow Unicorn! Also comes in penguin, ice dragon, flamingo, or polar bear design

  • A Strider Ski Attachment for balance bikes (has to be Strider brand) - my son loved his!

  • Snow Skates, Scooters, and Boards for the sledding hill 

    We've had fun with a Stiga Kick Scooter with ski attachment as well. 

    And if your child needs more balance, check out these Tri Scooters with skis.

    Alternately, if your child would rather sit than stand while sliding down a hill, check out these new Stiga Snow Riders.

    Finally, you can buy your child a regular scooter as a Christmas present as well. Our city pathways are oven shoveled year round meaning scooters can be used throughout the winter on warm days.

  • Snow  toys (including snowball slingshots!) - See a giant assortment of fun toys here from Airhead Sports.

  • A step counter to encourage walking and daily active living. My son has the Garmin Vivofit Jr. Activity Tracker. So far our only complaints are that the battery needs replacing frequently and we've gone through several straps. Otherwise, we've enjoyed it a lot.

    Another idea for an activity tracker, that can be charged without replacing batteries, is the Fitbit Ace which we're consider for our son's next tracker. And I imagine you can find them at any electronics store.

  • Active toys for indoor or outdoor play. I personally love the ninja toys (rope ladders, zip lines, and slacklines) from the Slackers company.

  • New ice skates for the winter, or inline skates for the summer (and add a hockey stick if buying ice skates)

  • A One World Futbol, an unpoppable soccer ball that never needs a pump and never goes flat. Perfect for travel, vacations, camping, or just the backyard. And, when you buy one of these balls, the company donates a portion of the price to organizations helping to bring play to youth in disadvantaged communities.

  • Fitivities, the board game that moves you - "Each individual or team competes against each other by completing the number of repetitions of a given exercise, which are determined by the spin of the arrow."

    "Fitivities is part board game, part workout, and all fun."

  • And check out these ideas for active toys from the Active for Life Gift Guide. 

Activity trackers make great holiday gifts for active kids


The Gift of Experience and Fun - Gift cards, ski discount cards, and more!



Want something that's less about collecting "stuff" and more about family bonding and fun adventure?

Gift cards for local indoor playgrounds, indoor bike parks and climbing gyms


Below are some of my top picks for the Calgary area:

B-Line Indoor Bike Park - Calgary's Biking Playground! Enjoy bike park and BMX style riding year round. There are levels of progression for all riders and you can rent everything you'll need (including bikes.)

Read more: B-Line Indoor Bike Park Review


Give the kids a gift card for B-Line Indoor Bike Park in Calgary

Calgary Climbing Centre - Take the kids to one of the Calgary Climbing Centre's Climb Parks for an hour of fun on creatively-themed climbing walls. There are two locations in the city and no experience is necessary thanks to the auto belay system that's used on every wall in these parks. Learn to climb and have fun doing it!

Read more: Rocky Mountain Climb Park Review

Read more: Hanger Climb Park Review

Give the kids a gift card to use at a Calgary Climbing Centre climb park

Inja Nation - Ninja + Trampoline + Climbing! All in one location in NE Calgary. Spend a couple of hours here as a family and enjoy their ninja obstacle courses, trampoline park, and climbing features. It's a great way to burn off some energy on a cold winter day. (My son begs me to go here at least once every couple of weeks.)

Read more: Inja Nation Review

There's never a bad day at Inja Nation in Calgary 

Ski Discount Cards, Tube Park Passes, or lift tickets for your local ski hill 


Below are a few suggestions here:

  • Put a ski discount card in your child or teenager's stocking.

    Read: How to Become a Ski Family (without breaking the bank) for a comparison of all discount cards for hills near Calgary

  • Tube park passes make another great stocking stuffer. And the Acura Tube Park at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park is a lot of fun!! (It's one of the fastest tube parks in the area.)

  • Pick up some lift tickets and surprise the kids with a ski day at one of their favourite hills. Most hills have incentives for multi-day skiing or provide discounted pricing if you purchase lift passes online. Again, read my story on how to become a ski family above (where I've talked about how to buy affordable lift tickets.)

Tube park passes make a great stocking stuffer gift


GIVEAWAYS 


Terms and conditions for all giveaways:


All giveaways finish on November 26th at 12am. A winner will be chosen randomly for each draw on the 26th. 

Each winner has until November 28th to respond to the email I will send out. If you do not respond, a new winner will be chosen.

All contests are open to Canadian Residents 18 years of age or older.

Please note that you will need to be in Calgary this winter in order to use the gift cards for B-Line Indoor Bike Park or the Calgary Climbing Centre.

You will also need to visit Trail Blazers in Cochrane in person in order to use your $50 gift card. Shopping for All Out Kids Gear and Altitude Sports can be done online from anywhere in Canada.

Note that selection of a backpack from All Out Kids Gear and selection of Icebreaker base layers/socks from Altitude Sports is based on availability of stock. The stores will try their best to get you the product of your choice in your desired color/size, but you may have to choose an alternative item (or brand) if they are sold out of what you request. (This will be further explained by email to the winners)

All Out Kids Gear Giveaway 


a Rafflecopter Giveaway


Altitude Sports Giveaway



a Rafflecopter giveaway



B-Line Indoor Bike Park Giveaway



a Rafflecopter giveaway


Trail Blazers Giveaway


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Calgary Climbing Centre Giveaway (Hanger Location)


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Calgary Climbing Centre Giveaway (Rocky Mountain Location)



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out these other Family Holiday Gift Guides and Giveaways 



The Gift Guide For Everyone On Your List 2018 - Bring the Kids

The Best Gifts for Skiers - Brave Ski Mom

The Best Outdoor Gifts of 2018 | Editor’s Choice - Outdoor Families Magazine

The Best Adventure-Inspired Gifts for Outdoorsy People - Hiking in my Flip flops

Outdoor Family Gift Guide - 2018 - Tales of a Mountain Mama

The Best Gifts for Travelers  - Traveling Mel

Ethical Gifts for the Outdoor Family (+ Giveaway) - Born to Be Adventurous

Gift Guide for Ski Families - Mountain Mom and Tots

Meaningful Gifts You Actually Want to Give Your Children - Wike Baby

Holiday Gift Guide for Lovers of the Outdoors  - Play Outside Guide

Gift Guide for Adventure Travelers and Outdoor Lovers - Nomads with a Purpose

2018 Ultimate DIY, Handmade Guide for Your Wild Child!- Wilder Child



Big Thanks to all sponsors of this year's holiday gift guide!

- All Out Kids Gear

- Altitude Sports

- B-Line Indoor Bike Park

- The Calgary Climbing Centre

- Trail Blazers

Monday, November 12, 2018

Wild Mountain Skating Guide for Banff and Kananaskis


Mid-November is here and that means it's game on for wild mountain skating in Banff. Some of the lakes are starting to freeze, thick enough for skating, and are snow free (for now.) Once it snows, the ice will be covered and that will be it for another year.


Wild Mountain Skating in Banff on Johnson Lake


What is "Wild Mountain Skating?"


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.


Skating across Johnson Lake in Banff on November 11th, 2018

Johnson Lake in Banff is always one of the first lakes to freeze and my family has skated on it nearly every year now for the past 7 years. We started by pushing our son across the ice in a chariot when he was just a toddler, and now, at 9 years old, my son doesn't even like skating indoors anymore. He's become spoiled and loves his wild mountain skating days.


Playing hockey on Johnson Lake, November 9, 2013

Some years we luck out and get ice that's as smooth as glass and 100% snow free (like this year.) Other years, we shovel off a small area to play hockey and skate (as in the photo above where the ice thickness was so bad we never actually went further than this tiny rink we cleared).)

Other years, benevolent angels in the Bow Valley show up with shovels to clear paths around the lake if there's been snow before the lake freezes.


Johnson Lake on November 15, 2014


Other Options Around the Town of Banff for Wild Mountain Skating 


Other options around the Town of Banff for natural skating are Vermilion Lakes (we usually skate on the first lake closest to town,) or Cascade Pond


Skating on the First Vermilion Lake, November 19th, 2016

Two Jack Lake can often be good for skating as well in late November or even into December. This year, 2018, we were on Two Jack Lake on November 21st but last year, 2017, we weren't skating here until December 15th. 

Skating on Two Jack Lake, December 15, 2017
The cool thing about Two Jack Lake is that when it's frozen, you can skate down the canal through the campground. In 2017 it wasn't frozen but this year for 2018, it was. It made for a 4 km round trip skate from one end of the lake (as far as we dared go in the Minnewanka direction) down the canal and back.

Skating down the canal on Two Jack Lake, November 21, 2018

Finally, Lake Minnewanka is a popular skating lake later in the season but I've never caught a window on this one. 

It doesn't get prettier than this on Two Jack Lake,  November 21, 2018

- note the life jacket in the photo above: the ice was barely 4 inches thick (I suspect it was closer to 3.)


Other Popular Skating Choices in the Bow Valley 


There are many choices, depending on the season. Below are a few popular locations:

  • Lac Des Arcs off the TransCanada Hwy

  • Carrot Creek, Banff  located between Banff and Canmore off the TransCanada Hwy (requires a hike down from the highway. We personally haven't skated here yet but the link goes to a great blog post by another local Calgary blogger.

  • Gap Lake off the Hwy 1A between Canmore and Exshaw

  • Grotto Pond beside the Grotto Canyon Day Use Area (this one is usually cleared by locals and can be skateable into December.)

  • Ghost Lake Reservoir just outside Cochrane off the Hwy 1A (this one is usually skateable through the winter season and is popular with ice sail boats)



Skating on Lac Des Arcs on November 19th, 2016
Gap Lake on December 2nd, 2016
Grotto Pond, December 18th, 2016
Ghost Lake Reservoir on December 21st, 2014

Wild Mountain Skating in Kananaskis


It's a real treat to be able to skate on some of the big lakes in Kananaskis. Dates are variable year to year, and I've only managed to personally skate on a couple of them due to timing.

The crown jewel here is Spray Lake which had the most amazing season in 2017 for about a week where the ice was snow free and smooth as glass. 

Skating on Spray Lake, December 16th, 2017

Last year we also got to skate on Upper Kananaskis Lake which I feel might have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Skating on Upper Kananaskis Lake on December 16th, 2017

Skating on Creeks and Rivers


Truth be told, I almost prefer creeks and rivers over lakes because I think it's fun to skate along a winding channel with bends and interesting features.

Last winter, we heard about people skating on Cougar Creek in Canmore, and had to go check it out. It was absolutely magical!!

Skating down Cougar Creek in Canmore, January 8th, 2018

Basic Directions to find Cougar Creek: 

  1. Start at this off leash dog park in Canmore on Bow Valley Trail / Hwy 1A.

  2. Walk under the bridge (crossing under the 1A)

  3. Follow the creek until you find good skating ice. You will come to a junction where Policeman's Creek and Spring Creek come in to join you from the northwest. Here we headed towards the river and found great smooth ice. 

As this is a skate-hike, you'll need winter boots to reach the ice, and either a backpack to hold your skates (or just carry them.)

Where Cougar Creek meets the Bow River in Canmore

Another option is the Bow River in Banff. The Town of Banff clears an oval on the Bow River downtown Banff along Bow Avenue. This is often skateable throughout the winter and is a nice safe choice.

Skating on the Bow River Oval downtown Banff, January 8th, 2018

Finally, we love skating on the creek in Bowness Park, right in Calgary (super close to home!) It's cleared and maintained through the winter and gives a very natural skating experience close to home.

Skating down the creek in Bowness Park, Calgary 

For more information on where to skate in Banff and Kananaskis:


Banff Town Guide to Ice Skating (with safety information and locations for skating all winter long)

8 Memorable Places to Skate in Banff National Park - Banff Lake Louise Tourism Guide

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

How to Love Winter in the Rockies - On Skates!

November is my favourite month to visit Banff  

Johnson Lake 2018 - Pure Magic!! 

Safety Guideline for Ice Thickness



Recommendations for ice thickness are based on clear, blue or green ice: 

3" (7cm) or less STAY OFF

4" (10cm) ice fishing, walking, cross country skiing

5" (12cm) one snowmobile or ATV

8"-12" (20-30cm) one car or small pickup truck

12"-15" (30-38cm) one medium truck (pickup or van)


Skating down Cougar Creek, Canmore on January 8th, 2018
Skating down the canal on Two Jack Lake, November 21, 2018

Disclaimer: It is up to you the individual, to verify that all ice is thick enough to skate on. I rely on social media reports, measurements from friends and acquaintances, and sometimes even official warnings/notices from Parks Canada. 

I also don't like to venture out on lakes unless I can see lots of other people enjoying the ice. It gives me a sense of comfort to know that we're not alone on the ice.

I highly recommend bringing a full change of clothes and a rope or even a hockey stick/ski pole in case you have to pull somebody out. Some people also choose to wear life jackets.

Finally, it's always a good idea to skate with other people in a group (or to choose a lake with many other people out on it.)


ShareThis