Friday, November 25, 2011

My winter bucket list

Every year I make a list of goals; divided up by season, of the trips I want to do, places to visit, and the adventures I want to share with my family.   I can't help it but I love making lists.  I was delighted when I discovered another kindred list-maker the other day on the Nature for Kids blog. 

Shawna inspired me to write a story about my "bucket list" for the 2011-2012 season.  While I'm not sure I'll actually write my goals on clothes pins and clip them to a bucket as she did, I do have them logged in my master life spreadsheet.  (yes, I'm way too organized!)

One - Get 15 days of x-country skiing in this winter
Last winter my goal was 20 days and I really struggled to get in the last 5 days come spring.  There was still snow at the Canmore Nordic Centre last year into April but with the warmer weather and the sticky snow, I was never able to get my wax perfect and struggled with clumping.  If I went light on the wax I couldn't get up the hills.  This winter I am hoping to get a second pair of wax-less skis specifically for spring skiing and sticky snow days.

Two - Enjoy my favorite ski tours in the Canadian Rockies
  • The Goat Creek Traverse from Canmore to Banff
  • Boom Lake, Banff
  • Paradise Valley, Lake Louise
  • Skogan Pass, Kananaskis
  • Chester Lake, Kananaskis
We did all of these tours last winter with the exception of  Paradise Valley so it's got priority on this list.
We also learned last winter that ski touring through soft powder while pulling a Chariot isn't advised.  We'd like to avoid some of the flip-overs we had last winter.  We bought a ski pulk and are hoping it will work better for taking our toddler skiing with us.  Otherwise, Grandma might be recruited for a couple Saturdays of babysitting and I might join a meet-up trip or two with  the Calgary Outdoor Recreation Association (CORA).

I should note if you are planning to do any of the trips above that the bridge is currently out on the Goat Creek traverse so check with Parks Canada before heading out.  Also, I highly recommend reading the book. Ski trails in the Canadian Rockies book by Chic Scott if you are unfamiliar with ski touring.  It is a sport with potential avalanche risk and most of the trails above are at least partially unmaintained for x-country skiing.  Sections might be groomed or track-set but certainly not the whole trail.  If you plan to do ski tours with children you will need to be very confident on your skis and even use light touring skis with metal edges for increased control.  I like the Madshus skis from Mountain Equipment Coop and prefer BC bindings for additional support when coming downhill.

Three - Take Noah on his first overnight back-country winter adventure
We have already reserved one of the Alpine Club of Canada's huts for a Saturday night this winter and plan to take our toddler on his first overnight adventure.  We've taken Noah into the Elizabeth Parker Hut in summer but this time we are going to take him in to the Elk Lakes Cabin.  We are going to make the journey on snow shoes and Uncle John is coming with us.  Noah loves his uncle so we are hoping for a great weekend with family and friends.   Staying at this cabin in Elk Lakes Provincial Park had become an annual winter tradition for us so I'm very happy to be returning after several years of missing the trip.

Four - Fully explore the ski trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis
My favorite place to ski when I'm looking for perfect grooming and track-set trails is in Peter Lougheed Park.  It's free to ski there with almost 100km of maintained ski trails, and there's lots of variety from narrow trails following creeks still flowing with water, to big hills leading up to amazing viewpoints over Upper Kananaskis Lake.  I also like that you can start skiing from either the Pocaterra Warming Hut or the Visitor Information Centre.  Both options are great for kids because you can have a snack before heading out, dress the kids up, change diapers and go to the bathroom all from the warmth of a cabin or beautiful visitor centre complete with fireplace and picture windows looking out over the mountains.  Many families set up home base at one of the two facilities and take turns doing short loops while one parent skis or plays with the kids.  It's a good idea for groups of families that want the kids to play/ski together while groups of adults also take turns on the trails.
We are also hoping that perhaps we can get our son on a little pair of skis this winter.  We'll see.

Five - Go sledding
Wow, something not related to skiing!  We get very addicted to skiing each winter so sometimes we neglect the simple pleasures of sledding and playing in the snow.  Last winter we only tried sledding with Noah once so I'm hoping we can improve upon that this year.

Six - Go skating - lots!
Maybe all those figure-skating lessons paid off as a kid because today I still love skating.  I especially love it when we can go outdoors and we are fortunate to have one of the largest outdoor skating lagoons in Calgary located within a five minute drive.  Bowness Park is very close to us and not only does it have a large lagoon complete with fire-pits in the middle, but it also has a creek that you can skate down.  It's the next best thing to skating in the mountains.  Last year I took Noah there at least once a week and pushed him around the ice in his Chariot.  We are getting Noah his own skates this year for Christmas and are hoping to teach him to skate a little bit on his double blade Bob Skates.

Seven - Be generous and let my husband have a couple weekends off for back-country skiing along with a couple other day trips
Back-country skiing isn't my thing because honestly I'm just not good enough at skiing downhill through waist deep powder.  I'm also terrified of avalanches.  However, I realize that every trip my husband does on x-country skis is just practice and conditioning for the "real thing" which means lots of powder and vertical.  Hopefully when Noah is older he'll learn to back-country ski with Dad.  For now, it will continue to be Dad's time out.

Eight - Do at least a few snowshoe trips
Snowshoeing isn't my favorite thing because I can't justify walking up and back down a trail when there's snow on the ground.  I'll "walk" up on my skis but then I want to slide down.  There are times though when snowshoeing is justified.  Some trails just aren't ski-friendly on light touring skis.  Spring also brings good conditions for snowshoeing when you can no longer ski.  The same can be said for early winter like right now.  We are in fact thinking about going snowshoeing this weekend at Highwood Pass before the road closes for winter. 

There is a new book out devoted to snowshoe trails in the Canadian Rockies and I am very excited to hopefully get it for Christmas.  It's called Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies by Andrew Nugara.  I'm not very familiar with the trails we have for snowshoeing and as I mentioned before I'm scared of being in avalanche terrain.  I'm hoping this book can teach me to appreciate the sport more and show me some amazing places to explore this winter.

For the moment, my favorite trails I'd like to possibly explore this winter are:
  • Rummel Lake, Kananaskis
  • Chester Lake, Kananaskis
  • Rawson Lake, Kananaskis
  • The Upper Kananaskis Lake Circuit to the Point Campground and back, Kananaskis
  • Lake Agnes, Lake Louise

Nine - Ski into Lake O'Hara, Yoho National Park for tea with my girlfriends
I put this one on my list just for my friend Jackie.  I know how much she wanted to do it last year and we couldn't coordinate weekends.  This year I am determined to make a girl's trip of it.  (my husband has sworn he'll never ski up the road to O'Hara again)  It's not an exciting ski going 11km up a road to reach a frozen lake with rare views because it always seems to be snowing when I go there.  However, the Lake O'Hara Lodge serves the most amazing lunch for $20 I believe (verify their website or call the lodge to confirm).  You get three courses of soup and bread, salad, and dessert, along with your choice of coffee or tea.  The price might seem steep but they do have to get all the ingredients into a back-country lodge in the middle of winter.  If you are going to go into the lodge for lunch make sure you phone ahead and confirm they are open.  Last year we got there too late in the season and had to ski back down with nothing but the granola bars in our pockets to eat.  Also bring cash for the lunch as they don't accept other forms of payment.

Ten - Take a trip into a catered back-country ski lodge
Last year my husband and I took an overnight trip into the amazing Skoki Lodge in the heart of Banff's back-country.   I've been into Skoki Lodge a number of times and it still isn't enough.  It's such an amazing experience to be able to ski into a lodge carrying nothing but a few extra pieces of clothing, some snacks, extra layers of warm clothing and a toothbrush.  Then to arrive at the lodge and have gourmet meals prepared for you including afternoon tea and snacks is a true luxury.  Add real beds, blankets, pillows and a private cabin should you wish to spend a little extra money and it is my perfect  idea of a weekend away.

I'm not sure we'll be going into Skoki again this year but a friend is trying to organize a trip into another back-country lodge called Shadow Lake Lodge in Banff.  I've also been into this lodge and find it another amazing destination deep in the wilderness of Banff National Park.  Wherever I go, I do hope that I get to spend a night at one of the amazing lodges in Banff.  I have hinted to my husband that the one remaining back-country lodge I haven't been into is Sundance Lodge so maybe that's an option.

I've had a lot of fun writing this story and I hope it inspires you to get out there and really enjoy this winter with your family.

If you would like to partner with our family in our winter adventures we are always looking for new friends and families to join us.

What's on your bucket list for this winter?  I'd love to know.

Here are some photos that show why I LOVE winter in our glorious Canadian Rockies.

My 20th day of skiing last winter - The Canmore Nordic Centre in April

Lake O'Hara in winter - the Alpine Club of Canada's Elizabeth Parker Hut

Skoki Lodge, Banff

My husband and son snowshoeing at Upper Kananaskis Lake

Looking out over Upper Kananaskis Lake

Ski tour on the Boom Lake Trail, Banff

Paradise Valley ski tour, Lake Louise

Skiing to Elk Pass, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Noah sledding last winter at the Kananaskis Village

Snow shoe trip last winter
Pulling Noah up to Chester Lake last winter

Skiing at  Nipika Resort, BC

Skating on Johnston Lake in Banff this November

Chester Lake, Kananaskis

Friends skiing in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Soaking up some fresh spring air at the Elk Lakes Cabin

One of my favorite ski tours ever - the Tonquin Valley in Jasper National Park


  1. I love all your pictures! Awesome and it makes me want to visit!

  2. Any time Alyssa. We'd love to show you and your family around.