Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Easiest Family Winter Backcountry Trip (Wheeler Hut, Rogers Pass)

We have snowshoed or skied into the A.O. Wheeler Hut in Canada's Glacier National Park three times now, and it always amazes me how EASY it is to get kids into the backcountry for a winter trip when you stay here. With a short approach and a very large cabin, you can invite your whole gang of friends to join you for a fun group winter getaway.

November Skiing into the Wheeler Hut in Glacier National Park, British Columbia

Skiing or Hiking into the Wheeler Hut

Hiking into the Wheeler Hut - Photo: Sean Strang
The Alpine Club of Canada operates and maintains over 25 backcountry huts across the Canadian Rockies. Most are way too challenging for a family to access in winter, but a couple are doable if your kids can ski or hike at least 9-12 km. One is usually quite easy to reach (when the road is open, which this year it is not,) but fortunately there is still the easy peasy Wheeler Hut approach.

The Wheeler Hut can be reached by vehicle in summer, and by a very short 1.2 km ski or hike in winter. Most children I know can hike or ski that far. And if not, it's pretty easy to tow them in a sled for that short distance.

So that's it, 1.2 km of hiking or skiing on a flat easy path, and you've arrived at the cozy Wheeler Hut!

There is one steep hill out of the parking lot, but we just walk our stuff up this first hill (carrying our skis) and then proceed from there once the trail flattens out. And when I say flat, I mean flat! The approach would be manageable even by a child wearing toddler sized strap on x-country skis.

My boys on the Wheeler Hut approach (see how flat the trail is?!) 

Below are the most popular questions I'd expect to be asked about a ski or snowshoe trip into the Wheeler Hut:

Where is the Wheeler Hut Located?

The hut is located in Glacier National Park (the Canadian one) in British Columbia. From Calgary, it's about a 4 hour drive BUT, trust me, it's doable for a weekend.

We drive out to the mountains on a Friday morning and without stopping, it's a 3 hour drive to Golden. This year we left a bit early and stopped to skate in Banff along the way.

We have lunch in Golden and then we drive one more hour out to Rogers Pass where the hut is located. We spend Friday and Saturday night at the hut (usually arriving around mid-afternoon Friday) and then leave Sunday morning for the drive back to Calgary.

To break the drive home up a bit, we usually stop for lunch again in Golden, and then stop at Lake Louise or in Banff for a short ski or hike.

Go to the Alpine Club of Canada website for complete driving directions and instructions on reaching the trailhead and parking lot to ski/hike into the hut. You'll find a printable detailed approach description under the "Access" section at the link above.

The Wheeler Hut, Rogers Pass, British Columbia in November

How do we Haul all our Stuff into the Hut? 

A friend asked me the other day: "How do you get all your wine into the hut?" And while the question made me laugh, it was still valid in that there is a LOT of stuff that you need to carry into a backcountry hut for a weekend (summer or winter.) Add a couple of kids and you're likely carrying much of their gear too.

Most families use sleds to haul gear into the hut in winter. They slide well over the snow, and are easy to tow for the short distance. We have an ice fishing sled that my husband has rigged up with poles for skiing (using PVC pipes for the poles) but most families on our previous trip just used regular sleds with ropes.

On our recent trip we used our sled and managed to fit a duffel bag with all our food, books, and games inside, our snowshoes, my son's downhill skis and boots, and winter boots (since we were skiing in.) The sled was very heavy but the approach took maybe 30-40 minutes, so it was certainly doable!

We also wore backpacks on our November trip to the hut with our sleeping bags, clothing, and other basic overnight gear. My son had his own backpack too.

Most families that came with us on our recent trip used the sled/backpack combination for hauling gear in. Most did not have the amount of "toys" we did though and kept it simpler with just skis or snowshoes (rather than both.) Most did not haul downhill skis in either for their kids since you can't really use them much from the hut unless you hike up the valley carrying them.

Sleds and backpacks make gear hauling easy into the hut

Do you have to Ski or Snowshoe into the Hut? Can you just walk? 

Yes, you can generally reach the hut in just your winter boots because the trail is usually well packed down. However, if there's been a dump of snow overnight you will definitely need snowshoes to reach the hut. Also, once you arrive at the hut there's a good chance you'll need snowshoes if you want to go exploring at all.

The terrain above the hut is best suited to snowshoes if you have children with you (rather than cross-country skis.) We like cross-country skiing into the hut so bring both, but I recommend the snowshoes if you want to choose just one gear item.

Exploring around the Wheeler Hut on snowshoes

Do you have to Reserve Spaces in the Hut (or can you just show up?)

You definitely have to reserve spaces in the hut and I recommend booking the entire thing. The hut sleeps 24 people in winter, so that breaks down to roughly 6 families (if each family has the traditional four members.) 

Reasons to book the whole hut for a family trip:

  • The hut attracts backcountry skiers in the winter and many like to keep the atmosphere rather "festive" in the evenings after skiing hard all day. It's not uncommon for people to bring large amounts of alcohol into the hut or to stay up late partying.

  • While you may be used to your toddler waking up in the middle of the night, your baby crying if he/she can't sleep, or your children running around with abundant amounts of energy (and noise,) the average adult staying at the hut will be less appreciative or understanding.

    Most adults visit this hut in winter as a way to escape for the weekend with their friends, and to have some fun with these friends (without children, that many have left at home.) They will not be thrilled to show up to a hut full of rambunctious children for their adult ski weekend. (I know I wouldn't have been back in the day.)

  • Tribe parenting makes these trips a lot more fun! We always take turns playing in the snow with the kids, going out for short hikes as a big group, and then breaking up into smaller groups of adults for short afternoon jaunts while other parents supervise the kids at the hut.

  • Kids have so much fun on these trips when they're surrounded by a bunch of other kids. Our 12 kids had a blast on our recent trip running around the hut playing games of hide and seek and flashlight tag. They created light shows with glow sticks upstairs in the sleeping area and enjoyed building a big fort together outside (for hours!!!)

  • There's less stress for you the parent if something goes wrong (example, your child has problems falling asleep.) Other parents and friends will be more supportive and helpful. At the very least they will make you a very strong cup of coffee the next morning and serve it with a hug.
Our group this past November at the Wheeler Hut (6 families and 12 children) - Photo: Leanne Nanninga

To book the hut, you'll likely need to be on the ball one year in advance. The Alpine Club takes reservations starting at 8:30 in the morning. Call them directly to make your booking. 

I also suggest planning your visit for early or late season (when the skiers won't be fighting you for the spots.) We already have the hut booked for another November stay for 2019. November and April are great times to visit the hut when it's a bit less popular.

Kids playing in the snow outside the Wheeler Hut (for hours!!)

What can you Expect from a Stay at the Wheeler Hut? (tell us about the hut!) 

The Wheeler Hut is AMAZING for families! It has two floors (the upper floor is for sleeping and the main floor is for cooking/eating/hanging out/playing in) and three big rooms on the main floor.

The main floor is divided into three rooms. First you walk into the large entry room (with drying racks for wet clothes, a wood fireplace, and a table for communal use, great for playing games or for extra space when the main room is full.) After this, there's the kitchen, in its own separate room, fully stocked with dishes and cooking supplies, and with another table for communal use. Finally, you come to the big fireside room which has a second wood fireplace, two big communal tables for eating and hanging out at, and plenty of space for a big group.

Main fireside room on one of our previous trips to the Wheeler Hut

Upstairs, there is room for 30 people to sleep comfortably on foam mattresses built into wooden platforms along the sides of the three rooms. In winter the hut only sleeps 24 people though because everybody travels with more gear.

The sleeping area upstairs is divided into three areas (just like downstairs) but there are no doors between each room. If you have children who need a quieter space to sleep in, I recommend grabbing spaces over the entry room which is always less crowded at night. There is a staircase up from the kitchen, making this room a bit noisier, and then it can get noisy over the main common room if people stay up late playing games.

Many other huts have a more open loft style sleeping arrangement (which never works for kids who go to bed early because it never gets fully dark or quiet until the last person goes to bed.) We find that the sleeping arrangement at Wheeler is one of the best in an ACC Hut.

Baking cookies in the kitchen on one of our previous trips to the Wheeler Hut

Other things to know about the Wheeler Hut:

  • Bathrooms are outside (outhouses) but are a short walk away

  • Bring your own toilet paper and a headlamp for night visits outside

  • Bring your own food, but all other supplies are provided for cooking. The hut has multiple propane stoves and even has an oven so we often bring frozen pizza for the first night

  • The hut has no electricity but once you get both fireplaces going, it warms up quickly. There are also propane lanterns for light

  • Water comes from melted snow or from the creek nearby when it's not frozen. Either way, plan to boil all water before drinking it

For more photos, visit the Alpine Club of Canada website where you'll also find a photo of the sleeping area upstairs (just scroll through the Wheeler Hut photos.)

Playing games inside the Wheeler Hut on one of our previous trips

What can you do for Fun while Staying at the Wheeler Hut? 

Building a sledding track is always fun for the kids!
We always plan a short group hike up the Asulkan or the Illecillewaet Valley in the morning while staying at the hut (see the next section below for more information on traveling above the hut.)

In the afternoon, the kids are content to play in the snow, to build forts, and to go sledding if there's enough snow. We tried to build them a luge track this past trip but the snow wasn't ideal yet for building a big sledding track. While the kids are playing in the snow, small groups of adults often take turns going out for short little jaunts.

Other than that, we play lots of games, we've baked and decorated cookies in the past, parents often bring in craft supplies, and we had a backcountry scavenger hunt on our recent trip that took up a good hour.

There is never a shortage of fun to be had and I am always left wishing that we had two full days to play at the hut rather than just the Saturday. Clearly my son has a LOT of fun though because he's always exhausted by Sunday morning and so we don't personally stick around past clean up for that reason. A couple of families did spend most of the day Sunday at the hut on our recent trip though.

Group hike up the Asulkan Valley 

Is it Safe to Travel here with Kids in the Winter? (What about avalanche danger??)

There is no avalanche danger on the ski or hike into the hut. From the hut, you can ski or hike roughly a kilometre (maybe 1.5 km) up the Asulkan Valley until you reach a beautiful bridge where we took our Christmas card photos this year.

November is a gorgeous time to explore the Asulkan Valley from the Wheeler Hut

You can also safely travel a short distance up the Illecillewaet Valley from the hut for another 1 to 1.5 km with the kids.

So that's 5-6 km of exploring you can do (round trip distances from the hut) which is plenty in winter when you're on snowshoes or cross-country skis with kids.

Snowshoeing on the Asulkan Valley Trail

The Asulkan Valley is the easier of the two for winter exploring and I love skiing to the bridge. The Illecillewaet Valley is better on snowshoes, (not cross-country skis) but can be fun with downhill skis on descent if you haul them in for the kids.

Children also love playing in the ruins of the old hotel that's a short 10 minute walk from the hut. We stop here to play before heading up either the Asulkan or Illecillewaet Valley.

Playing in the old hotel ruins near the Wheeler Hut

When it comes down to it, the only real question is: Why "not" plan a family winter trip to the Wheeler Hut? The kids have a blast, the adults enjoy their time playing in the snow as well, and everybody reconnects as families and friends.

Winter hiking is magical when you explore from the Wheeler Hut

Other Trip Highlights from our Recent November Trip (in photos) 

Making new friends and getting to know other friends better (the two boys in the photo below met in a before-school exercise program this year.)

The coolest tree we found on the Asulkan Valley Trail 

Playing around on skis on the Asulkan Valley Trail

Descending back to the hut with downhill skis

Time to get out and explore in the afternoon while the kids played at the hut

Girls afternoon ski tour

Snow and Fort Building! Seriously the kids played outside for hours!!

Building a fort outside the hut in the afternoon

Afternoon Scavenger Hunt! Tons of fun and those kids got a lot of exercise running around to find all their clues.

Kids listening to their rules for the scavenger hunt 

Skiing - in November!! (always a highlight!)

There's never a bad day when you can wear skis to play outside

So, who's joining us next year?

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 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


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

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B-Line Indoor Bike Park Giveaway

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Trail Blazers Giveaway

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Calgary Climbing Centre Giveaway (Hanger Location)

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Calgary Climbing Centre Giveaway (Rocky Mountain Location)

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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