Monday, December 05, 2016

Gotta do THIS - The Christmas Edition

There's finally snow on the ground, my house is decorated for the holidays, and I've been listening to Christmas music for two weeks already. I love December and I always have a huge list of fun things that we want to do to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season.

Gotta do THIS - Christmas in the Canadian Rockies

Hopefully you've already read Gotta do THIS - The December Edition. It focuses on winter hiking, snowshoeing, canyon and ice walks, cross country skiing, and mountain skating. There are also two giveaways to help families with young children get outside more easily this winter.

I originally intended to include Christmas and holiday activities in "Gotta do THIS December" but changed my mind when I realized you would need an hour to go through all of the information I wanted to share!

I decided to write a second Gotta do THIS post this month dedicated purely to the topic of getting outside this holiday season, to finding ways to celebrate an outdoor Christmas, and to enjoying this dark time of the year underneath beautiful twinkling lights with the family.

Everybody looks good in a Santa hat

Gotta do THIS - The Christmas Edition


One - Attend a Fun Family Outdoor Christmas Event

We have several favourite Christmas events that we attend annually as a family. Then there are always new events that we discover each year - ensuring our calendar stays nice and full. Add a few to your own calendar and make some fun memories this season.

1. The CP Holiday Train -  This beautifully lit up train travels across Canada each December collecting donations for local food banks and spreading holiday cheer with live entertainment. A stage opens out of one of the box cars and it's always a big party with kids dancing in front of the colorful train.

The CP Holiday Train rolling across the country

We like seeing the holiday train in Airdrie so that we can go to the Airdrie Festival of Lights at the same time and take a ride on one of the miniature trains. This year the CP Holiday Train arrives at Nose Creek Park in Airdrie at 5:30pm on Friday, December 9th. The entertainment goes from 5:45 - 6:15.

Families may also want to travel out to the mountains to see the train. It travels to Cochrane, Morley, Canmore, and Banff on Monday, December 12th this year with 45 minute stops in each town. The full schedule can be seen here (including the date for Calgary.)

Concert on the CP Holiday Train Stage

2.  The Spirit of Christmas in Bragg Creek - This festival runs on two more days this weekend, December 10th and 11th with reindeer showing up on the 11th. While you probably won't spend the entire day at the festival, it's fun to head out for a short ski or hike in West Bragg Creek and then stop by on your way home to take in some of the free family activities, to see Santa and his reindeer, and to enjoy a wagon ride. (Our highlight one year was the wagon ride with Santa riding along with us leading us in Christmas carols.)

Santa and Reindeer for the Win in Bragg Creek

If you want to visit the Spirit of Christmas with my family and join us for some cross country skiing or snowshoeing in West Bragg Creek first, send me a message. It's officially on my calendar for this Sunday, December 11th so that we can see the reindeer.

Wagon Rides with Santa in Bragg Creek

3. The Lion's Festival of Lights, Confederation Park  - The 30th annual Festival of Lights runs nightly until January 8th in NW Calgary. While you can just park near the gates and walk in to see the lights, we like to park over by the Confederation Park Golf Course off Collingwood Drive and then we like to ski or hike across the golf course. Sledding has also been fun in previous years but it looks like they have a light display on the hill we normally slide down this year.

Sledding at the Lion's Festival of Lights

4. Zoo Lights at the Calgary Zoo - This popular event is back until January 8th and I recommend going early! By 7:30pm it's so crowded you can't move in the park and the line up to buy tickets is insane! Go at 4:00pm if you have an annual zoo pass (or earlier if you want to spend the afternoon looking at the animals.) And if you are paying zoo light pricing rather than for a day admission, you can pay and enter the park as early as 4:30pm. At this time, there are no line ups and you'll still get to see a few animals before the buildings close for the night.

Zoo Lights at the Calgary Zoo

We went to zoo lights last Saturday at 4pm with our annual passes and friends arrived at 4:30pm, paying zoo light pricing. We visited a few animals, had dinner at the cafeteria, and had the whole park to ourselves. AND the lights were on by 5pm. By the time the park started to get busy, we were on our way home having already seen Santa, toured the lights, and played in the giant hay pile for over half an hour. Next time we go, we'll take advantage of the free skate rentals and skating rink.

Santa at the Calgary Zoo

5. Mountaintop Christmas at the Banff Gondola - Free with your admission to the Banff Gondola, you can visit with Santa, decorate Christmas cookies, make a craft, and participate in a fun family scavenger hunt. Take a tour of the new interpretive centre, have lunch in the newly renovated cafeteria, and fly over Banff in the incredible movie playing in the theatre.

And for those on a budget, you don't have to pay to ride the gondola down in the winter if you hike up. The trail is pretty snowy right now though so if you plan on hiking up the 700 metres of height to the top of the gondola, bring spikes or ice cleats for traction.

Santa found his way to the top of the gondola in Banff

6. Skate with Santa at the Canmore Nordic Centre - I've got this one on the calendar for December 22nd because it seems like a great way to get out for a family-friendly ski at the Nordic Centre and then enjoy some skating afterwards.

Trail fees are in effect for skiing at the Nordic Centre but the RE/MAX annual community skate with Santa is free. I've heard that the event takes place from 4:30 - 7:30 pm but it would be a good idea to call the Nordic Centre to confirm before heading out.

Learning to ski at the Canmore Nordic Centre

7. Ski With Santa at Nakiska Ski Area - Ski with Santa on December 24th at Nakiska Ski Area in Kananaskis. And personally, I'm thrilled that this is on the 24th and not the 25th. We might actually make it out this year to look for Santa on the slopes. AND then when we're done, we can head over to the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis to look for Santa's reindeer (more on that below under getaways for Christmas.)

Ski with Santa at Nakiska Ski Area this Christmas

8. New Year's Eve Party on the Pond in Canmore -  We've never spent New Year's Eve in Canmore before but this would be my top pick for how to spend New Year's in the Canadian Rockies. Enjoy skating on the pond downtown Canmore with fireworks as you start a new family tradition.
And while I can't speak for availability, the Alpine Club of Canada has affordable family accommodations at their Canmore Club House. There are also plenty of hotels and resorts nearby as well so do a quick search to see if you can find something close by rather than having to drive back to Calgary at midnight.

Skating is always a fun activity to do over the holidays

Two - Plan a Pre-Christmas Mountain Getaway

Spend Christmas at a Wilderness Hostel

We like to spend the weekend before Christmas at a remote wilderness hostel in Kananaskis or Banff and have been doing this for several years now. We go skiing, snowshoeing, skating, and play in the snow with friends. Some years we've made gingerbread houses and other years we've exchanged a few presents.

Christmas at Mosquito Creek

Below are some of my pre-Christmas wilderness hostelling stories if you'd like to be inspired to try this yourself.

Christmas Getaway in Kananaskis at the HI Kananaskis Hostel

Christmas Getaway at the HI Castle Mountain Hostel

Christmas Getaway at the HI Mosquito Creek Hostel

Christmas in Kananaskis at the HI Kananaskis Hostel

Have a bigger budget and want to spend a few nights in the mountains this Christmas? Below are my top picks for where to spend a truly magical Rocky Mountain Christmas.


Spend Christmas at Emerald Lake Lodge, Yoho National Park, BC

With ski or hike in/out cabins on the lakeshore, Emerald Lake Lodge is a great place for active families wanting to play in the snow without going far from their hotel room. Families can ski or hike across the lake, ski or hike the circuit around the lake, or ski/hike on numerous other trails in the area. You can even ski from the lake down to the Town of Field (which would be awesome with a second vehicle down there waiting for you.)

The resort has a great outdoor hot tub as well and the dining is some of the best in the Rockies.

It can be noted too that the last time I stayed here, I proclaimed that camping was stupid and that I was born to be a princess within the first 5 minutes of arriving. So take mom here and treat her like a princess for a couple of nights. 

Cabins along the lakeshore of Emerald Lake

 For more inspiration check out these links:

Christmas at Emerald Lake and Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts

Four Reasons to Celebrate the Holiday Season in the Rockies

Special Packages at the CRMR Resorts (including for Christmas and New Years)

Hiking across Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park



Spend Christmas at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis

One of our favourite places to head for a day trip before Christmas is Kananaskis Village (and if you can stay overnight at the Delta Lodge it's even better!) We go cross country skiing or hiking at Ribbon Creek, go downhill skiing at Nakiska Ski Area, skate on the outdoor pond at the village, visit with the reindeer (they'll be at the Delta Lodge this year on the 23rd, 24th and 25th,) and hang out inside the Delta Lodge by the beautiful fireplace.

Stay overnight and you can also enjoy the amazing swimming pool and hot tub as well as stay for dinner in one of the excellent restaurants (something we even do on day trips occasionally.)

Finally, you can literally ski or hike right out the door of the lodge. From the lodge you can ski down to Ribbon Creek, ski down to a connector trail that takes you to Wedge Pond, or hike around the Village on signed snowshoe trails. You'll never need to drive anywhere if you choose to cross country ski, snowshoe, or go skating. There's even a small sledding hill at the resort and Nakiska is only a 5 minute drive up the road.

Christmas at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis

For more information check out these links:

Christmas and New Years Festivities at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis

Deals and Packages at the Delta Lodge
Merry Mountain Christmas Package at the Delta Lodge

Ten Reasons to Spend Time at Kananaskis Village This Winter 

Ski Trails at Kananaskis Village


Spend Christmas at Mount Engadine Lodge, Kananaskis

If there's one place I've truly fallen in love with over the years, it's Mount Engadine Lodge. We've stayed here numerous times (winter and summer) and have always had an extremely memorable stay.

Top Reasons to stay at Mount Engadine Lodge:

  • NEW cross country ski trails being built right outside the door

  • Easy access to the Mount Shark ski trails, Chester Lake, and Rummel Lake

  • Close to Canmore if driving out Saturday afternoon after spending the day in the Bow Valley

  • Amazing location in Spray Valley Provincial Park with SNOW that you have to see to believe

  • Beautiful lodge rooms, cabins and suites in what feels like a backcountry ski lodge - but that has drive up access

  • All inclusive stays with lodging + all meals included

  • A cozy rustic yurt on site for those who want to try winter camping with all the comforts of the lodge and meals next door
Mount Engadine Lodge from the meadow below

For more inspiration check out these links:

Yurt Camping in Kananaskis at Mount Engadine Lodge

Paradise at Mount Engadine Lodge

Yurt Camping at Mount Engadine Lodge

Christmas Day Trips

Don't have the time, budget, or energy to plan an overnight trip right before Christmas? You can still round up your Santa hats and head out for a day hike. Check out our photos from last year's Christmas hike in Johnston Canyon in this story.

Christmas hiking at Johnston Canyon

Three - Plan a New Years Getaway

We love going away for New Years with friends and sharing a cabin or condo so that we can celebrate New Year's Eve with the kids during the daytime but then continue the celebration after the kids have gone to bed. This is much harder to do if you all have to go back to your own house by 8pm to put the kids to bed.

New Years Fireworks in Radium Hot Springs

Travel Spotlight: Radium Hot Springs and the Columbia Valley

We love going to the Columbia Valley in BC for New Year's. There are fireworks on the 31st in the Town of Radium Hot Springs and there's no shortage of things to do in the valley!

Some of our favourite things to do in the Columbia Valley over New Years:

  • Go skating on the Invermere Whiteway on Lake Windermere - when frozen, the lake has a giant oval cleared for skating with groomed ski tracks created around the outside of the skating loop. It is the longest skating trail in the world at over 30 km in length. There are also several hockey rinks cleared on the lake and fat biking is another popular sport enjoyed by locals on the lake.

  • Go cross country skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort or on Lake Lillian. The trails are maintained by the Toby Creek Nordic Club and they do a fabulous job. This year we are determined to make it up to the Hale Hut (with the kids skiing on their own up there) and we might try some downhill skiing at the resort too.

  • Go cross country skiing at Nipika Mountain Resort just outside of Radium Hot Springs. The Natural Bridge is really cool to ski to and we like doing the loop to return via the Canyon Bridge. There are also warming huts spread out around the property which makes for a family-friendly way to ski with young children.

Skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort

Additional Inspiration and Reading

Spend Christmas Outdoors

How to Celebrate an Outdoor Christmas

10 Ways to Celebrate a Calgary Outdoor Christmas 

Check out my Christmas Pinterest Page

Gotta do THIS - December Edition 

Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Families (2016)

Winter Escapes in the Columbia Valley

Waking up to a New Year in the Columbia Valley

Celebrating an Outdoor Christmas

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Gotta do THIS - December Edition

December can be a challenging month as we transition to colder temperatures and cope with the short amounts of daylight leading up to the winter solstice. Still, it can be a very fun month with a bit of creativity and enthusiasm to jump into some fun winter sports. And, if we get some snow, there will be a lot of awesome things to do with the family in the days leading up to Christmas. Check out my guide below for some fresh inspiration for family fun in the Calgary area and Canadian Rockies this month.

Gotta do THIS December! (photo: Johnston Canyon, Banff)

Gotta do THIS December - WITH GIVEAWAYS

1. Discover how much FUN winter hiking is

We climb a lot of mountains in the summer but I'd have to say that I prefer winter hiking for pure FUN. Seriously, winter hiking is as much (if not more) fun as summer hiking. There are several reasons why we enjoy winter hiking.

First, we can bring TOYS! We bring snowshoes, sleds, ski bikes, ski scooters, and ice cleats. All of these toys and tools help us to enjoy our experience to the ultimate max. With ice cleats we can descend into icy canyons and explore frozen waterfalls. With sleds we can enjoy backcountry sledding (which is an extreme sport if you do it on a steep twisty mountain trail.) Snowshoes take us to remote places that few tourists would ever see driving by on the highway. And ski bikes or scooters are just FUN! They convince the kids that winter hiking is actually a good way to spend the day (and help them to forget about the cold temperatures.)

This magical place is 5 minutes off the highway at Mosquito Creek, Banff (snowshoes required)

Essential Gear for Winter Hiking



Essential Gear: Ice Cleats and Spikes 

Jump off frozen waterfalls, descend into icy canyons, and explore the magic of places like Johnston Canyon, Jura Creek Canyon or Grotto Canyon.

Ice in Jura Creek (this year I'm bringing skates!!)

Grotto Creek Canyon
Suggested Reading:

Jura Creek - The Best Winter Hike in Kananaskis

Ice, Ice, Baby - Winter Canyon Hiking 

The Wildest Winter Family Hike in Kananaskis 

The Most Popular Hike in Banff without the Crowds  

Ice Caves and Frozen Waterfalls in Banff National Park 

And while I haven't written about Grotto Canyon (yet,) it's super easy to find. Follow the Alberta Parks website for information on the Grotto Creek Canyon hike outside Canmore.

Our favourite spikes are the Kahtoola Micro Spikes. And if you can find a pair of XS ones, they fit children with feet as small as size 13 or 1. (Sadly I think they've been discontinued in this size though so kids will have to try a pair of small yak trax or a similar brand of ice cleat.)

Ice cave in Johnston Canyon, Banff

Essential Gear: Snowshoes

Snowshoes are super easy to use and require very little practice using before you can take off running down the trail. Alberta Parks and Banff National Park both have great snowshoe trails that are packed and maintained for easy winter walking.

Snowshoes can take you to beautiful places like this! (photo: Icefields Parkway near the Hilda Creek Hostel)

Suggested Reading:

Family Snowshoeing Super Guide

Snowshoeing is Boring - and other myths I once believed

Snowshoeing - Family Friendly, Affordable, and Easy

10 Snowshoe Adventures to Try this Winter in the Canadian Rockies

And if you want to know what we're wearing, my son will be trying out a pair of MSR Shift Kids Snowshoes this winter. (review to come if we ever get snow!) I'm partial to Atlas snowshoes for myself (and would never wear a pair of snowshoes that weren't specifically designed for a woman's gait.) As for my husband, his snowshoes are so old I doubt they even make them even more. If he didn't like skiing so much better than hiking, I'd buy him a new pair for Christmas.

Snowshoeing is pretty exciting when you get views like this! (photo: Shadow Lake, Banff)

Essential Gear: Sleds

Let's face it, the best thing about winter hiking is that there is snow! This means you can pull the kids in sleds, Chariots, pulks, and strollers with skis when they get tired. We've even pulled our son on a bike with a ski attachment.

Backcountry sledding for the WIN
Because our son is almost 8 years old, we've long outgrown Chariots, strollers, and pulk sleds but we love hiking with a normal plastic Pelican sled. We hike up the trail as a family and then the kids pile into the sleds we've pulled up for the trip down. Helmets are recommended and you'll want to get good at steering the sled if pulling kids down steep trails. (I recommend letting the sled go in front of you so you can steer it around trees!)

Backcountry sledding is a BLAST and kids love the opportunity to slide off hills they'll find in the backcountry along with sliding down your ascent trail back to the car.

Suggested Reading:

Hiking and Backcountry Sledding at Highwood Pass, Kananaskis

*note the highway is closed to reach Highwood Pass now but the story still serves as good inspiration.

Backcountry Sledding on a homemade luge track
Happy Winter Adventures - Just Add Sled

And for a real adventure, try creating a twisty windy luge track with banked corners next time you're out in the backcountry! (again, helmets recommended)

Our personal favourite sleds: You're going to need something that you can attach a rope to if you're going to pull a sled up a hiking trail. It should also be a plastic molded sled and not a foam sled that you'd use on a sledding hill.

We like the red Pelican Two person sled. Here is a link to the three person one from Canadian Tire. The three person blue one is ok but it's larger and would be harder to steer around tight corners.

For backcountry hut trips, we like using a utility ice sled. They are sold at many stores but we got ours from Cabela's last winter for a good price. They come in different sizes too.

Whichever sled you use, attach a longer rope to it than what it comes with. You'll appreciate the length so that you can wrap it around your waist and steer it.

Steering our Pelican Sled down the Chester Lake Snowshoe Trail

Choosing a Winter Hiking Trail: 

Check out the Beginner's Guide to Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies Guide Book

Visit the Alberta Parks website and explore this page: Kananaskis Country Winter Activities.  There are good links and resources on this page.

Visit the Banff National Park website and explore their information on snowshoeing in Banff National Park. 

*And remember to stay off ski tracks when hiking. Some ski trails are also closed to hiking so respect signs that request hikers to stick to hiking trails. (West Bragg Creek for example has separate trails for skiing and hiking.)

Sleds are also useful for carrying your stuff when you're off into the backcountry

Essential Gear: Strollers With Skis (sponsored by Polar Stroller)

Last winter I did a full review on the Polar Stroller skis, designed and manufactured by a local Calgary family business. Read that review here.

And watch a short video here:

Polar Stroller is unique in that they design and manufacture skis for use with all kind of strollers (three or four wheel ones, mall strollers, all terrain strollers, jogging strollers, Chariots, etc.) Their skis can also be used on a Weehoo or bike trailer if you enjoy winter fat biking and want to pull the kids behind you. (Now THAT is cool!)
Get outside this winter with Polar Stroller Skis

With a set of Polar Stroller skis, you can enjoy fat biking, winter walks or snowshoeing with babies, toddlers, and young children all winter long. You can continue to use the same stroller you normally use all year round (without having to invest in a special ski pulk or Chariot with ski attachment) AND their skis are the best on the market for strollers. You can turn your stroller into a sleigh with a click and away!

Co-Owner, Kelly Patterson, says: "Our single chariot ski is great for putting on a Weehoo and towing behind a fat bike. My toddler goes everywhere behind Dad on the fat bike in the winter and LOVES it! You could also put a single ski on the front jogging wheel of a chariot if you already had the x-country ski kit and push the chariot or pull it for snowshoeing and winter walks." 

Polar Stroller has completely re-designed their skis for the 2016 season with their new RX1 skis, named after their new baby Rex.

"This year's new binding design allows the chariot skis to fit from a 12” wheel up to a large 21” chariot/bike trailer wheel, which is perfect for the growing family. We have custom designed and manufactured our own skis, and no one else has anything like it. Our skis are longer and wider than any other stroller skis on the market. They are twin tipped and made from ABS, super hard wearing and strong, and resilient to extreme changes in heat/cold. The skis also take seconds to attach and remove with the new click release binding mechanism."

Please visit the Polar Stroller Website for full information on the company and to see the different kinds of ski sets available. Information on the new RX1 technology can be found on their Technology Page.

It doesn't get cooler than this!

Win a Pair of RX1 Skis from Polar Stroller

The owners of Polar Stroller would like to give away one set of RX1 Polar Stroller Skis to a lucky winner from Canada or the United States. Free shipping is included across Canada and the United States (with the exception of Alaska.) The winner will be able to choose the type/number of skis that they require for their stroller, Chariot or bike trailer.

To Enter, proceed to the bottom of this blog post where you'll find the Rafflecopter box.

Snowshoeing with Polar Stroller Skis

Essential Gear: Ski Attachments for Strider Balance Bikes (Sponsored by Run Bikes YYC)

Some of you are questioning the word "essential" right now but YES, if you have a child on a Strider Balance Bike, I highly recommend getting them a ski attachment to convert their bike into a winter bike. The video here was the only evidence I needed. I bought my ski attachment the same day I saw the video.

Winter Hiking with Strider Ski Bikes

My son has "mostly" outgrown his Strider bike with the skis but we had a lot of fun with that bike year round. In the winter, we carried it up more hiking trails than I can remember so that Noah could ski back down to the parking lot. We brought it into the backcountry and towed Noah into multiple backcountry lodges and cabins on the bike. We took it to the sledding hill where it was a big hit. And we used it on all of our winter hikes to make them more fun.

Towing child + sled into a backcountry hut 

For more photos and to see some of the crazy things we've done with our Strider bike with ski attachment, check out the following story: Our Annual Winter Backpacking Trip to Elk Lakes

For another fun video, check out this fun one below from Run Bikes YYC, local Strider Bike dealership in Calgary. You can also find out more about Strider balance bikes and the ski attachment on the Run Bikes YYC website above. (and both make excellent Christmas presents!)


Win a Strider Ski Attachment from Run Bikes YYC

Brett and Heather Pennett,The owners of Run Bikes YYC would like to give away one Strider ski attachment for a lucky Alberta winner.

Note that you must have a Strider bike already and that the ski attachment is not compatible with other balance bikes. The attachment straps onto the wheels of the bike so it's necessary to have the same size and style of wheels as the Strider brand balance bike.

This contest is open to all Alberta residents with free delivery in Calgary or free shipping in the province.

Backcountry Biking with the Strider Ski Attachment

Essential Gear: Other Toys and Ski Scooters

I mentioned ski scooters earlier and this is a great option for kids who have outgrown the Strider balance bike. I've done a review of the Stiga Kick Combo Scooter that you can read if you would like. This scooter has both wheels and a ski attachment so that kids can use it year round.

Since writing the review I do have to add that you need perfect conditions to use the ski attachment though.

  • The trail can't be too steep because you have no brake and it's hard to balance on the scooter if going too fast.

  • The trail has to be steep enough because you can't use a scooter with skis on flat terrain. It's very different than using one with wheels. If you aren't on a hill, you don't move. At all! Therefore, this is not something you'll ride to school. It's not something you'll ride both up and down the trail. It's something you'll use only on moderate hills in the downward direction.

  • We found the scooter to be good with wheels but it's certainly no Razor. We now have Razors for both Noah and myself and prefer them for quality.

That all being said, if you find a really good deal on a combo ski/wheel scooter, they can be fun and do make for a neat Christmas gift. It is nice to have both wheels and skis for your scooter as well.

Learning to balance on the Stiga Ski Scooter

2. Discover how much FUN mountain skating is

December is usually a bit late for mountain skating because the lakes are normally covered in snow.  This winter is a bit different though and many lakes are still in great condition. Many lakes near Banff or in the Bow Valley are frozen and snow free (or lightly dusted in a thin layer of snow that you can easily shovel off or skate through as is.)

Recommended lakes right now would be anything in the Exshaw area along the Highway 1A outside of Canmore. Try Gap Lake, Grotto Pond, or any of the other ponds along the 1A.

Lac Des Arcs off the TransCanada Hwy outside Canmore has also been amazing over the past week with ice as smooth as glass. There is some open water on the far side so park near the little island and skate in the protected area in front of and around the island.

Skating on Lac Des Arcs outside Canmore

Finally, Ghost Lake outside of Canmore should be frozen by late December and is a popular spot for both skating and ice sailing in special sail boats.

Please note that it is up to you to determine if the lake or pond is frozen. Nobody from Parks Canada or Alberta Parks is out checking the ice and posting signs to tell you if it's safe or not to skate. Conditions change weekly (sometimes daily) as temperatures warm and cool. It also helps if you know the lake or pond you want to skate on. Each lake has its own character and "danger spots" that you should avoid.

For more on mountain skating and safety, please visit this link to the Banff National Park website.

And if you don't feel comfortable skating on an un-maintained mountain lake, the link above mentions safer options in Banff that are groomed and cleared of snow when safe. For example, there is a nice rink beside Bow Falls that should be good to go by Christmas. Lake Louise also has a small rink that is maintained and cared for by the resort.

Skating on Vermillion Lake, Banff

3. Discover how much FUN skiing is 

I did a big feature on skiing in "Gotta do THIS November" -- and then it barely snowed the entire month! I was looking forward to getting out lots in the past month but in the end, we managed to get out cross country skiing once by sneaking onto the Pocaterra Trail from Highway 40 past the winter gate. My boys also got to Nakiska once where they had one run open off the gold chair. Still, two ski days is better than no ski days.

For downhill ski fans, most ski resorts should be opening early December (if not already open) and Nakiska Ski Area is trying their best to get more runs open.

For cross country ski fans, here are my top picks for where to go cross country skiing in December:

Early season skiing in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
  • The Cross Country Ski Trails at Lake Louise - the Moraine Lake Road and the Great Divide Trail are already good to go. Other trails will be groomed and track set shortly. The Castle Mountain Trails are also a good bet as December brings more snow.

  • The Canmore Nordic Centre - Currently, Frozen Thunder is the only trail that's open. It is accessible to the public mid-week in the afternoons and all day on weekends. More trails will be open soon though. Winter trail fees are in effect to ski at the Nordic Centre.

  • The Kananaskis Village Cross Country Ski Trails - There is currently no snow at the Village but soon we should be able to ski here. It doesn't take much snow to be able to ski the Terrace Loop at the very least.

  • The Peter Lougheed Provincial Park Ski Trails - Grooming has not quite started yet on these trails but I'd give it a week. The Elk Pass trail should be groomed by the first week of December. (Fingers crossed!)

  • The West Bragg Creek Trails - Again, there is currently no snow here but soon, soon, soon!

  • The Cascade Fire Road up the Cascade Valley in Banff - This trail requires very little snow to be enjoyed on skis and we usually ski it in November. The trail starts from the Lake Minnewanka Parking lot and I've no doubt we'll be on this trail within the next week or two.

First day on the trails for the 2016 winter season

Want to find out more about where to ski near Calgary and in the Canadian Rockies? Check out the newly revised guidebook: Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies. It covers everything from groomed trails to light touring to epic backcountry ski traverses. And if you have an older version of this book, the 5th edition for 2016 has a lot of new trails not previously included. The avalanche ratings and guidelines are also much improved.
Ski Buddies

Best websites for Trail Reports and Ski Conditions:

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park Live Grooming Report

Ribbon Creek Live Grooming Report (for Kananaskis Village)

Canmore Nordic Centre Live Grooming Report

West Bragg Creek Trail Reports

Ski Here (Look for the Trip Reports Tab at the top of the page)

Banff National Park Trail Reports 

Additional Inspiration For Awesome Winter Fun

My Personal Top Ten List of Cool Things to Do this Winter

5 More Cool Things to Do this Winter 

10 More Cool  Things to Do this Winter (for a total of 25 awesome ways to embrace the cold)

Mountain Skating is definitely one of the top 25 cool things to do this winter!

AND, Coming Soon - Gotta do THIS - The Christmas Edition

Watch for it on Monday, December 5th.

It will be filled with the best of the best outdoor activities to do this Christmas season in the Calgary, Kananaskis, and Banff areas. It will also feature a few suggestions for families wanting to travel further afield for a Christmas or New Years getaway.

Coming Soon: Gotta do THIS - The Christmas Edition



Enter to win a set of RX1 Polar Stroller Skis from Polar Stroller. Contest is open to all residents of Canada and the United States. Free shipping is included for all provinces or states with the exception of Alaska. The winner will be able to choose the type/number of skis that they require for their stroller, Chariot or bike trailer.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter to win a set of Strider skis from Run Bikes YYC. Contest is open to all Alberta residents with free shipping or delivery included. The winner must already have (or plan to purchase) a Strider balance bike as this contest is only for the ski attachment.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Both contests end at midnight, the morning of December 8th, and winners will be notified by email that day. If I do not hear back from a winner by the 10th, I will choose a new winner.