Thursday, December 19, 2013

10 Ways to Celebrate a Calgary Outdoor Christmas

The Christmas Holidays are almost upon us and unless you're planning a sunny trip to Mexico, you're going to need some fun ideas to keep the kids entertained while school's out.  And, because you probably don't want the kids going stir crazy and tearing your house apart, you're going to have to venture outside.  Into the snow.   (of which we have tons!)

Here are my top 10 suggestions for fun things to do outside with the family this holiday season:

Celebrate an Outdoor Christmas this year!

One - Go Skiing on a City Golf Course

Both the Shaganappi Point and Confederation Park Golf Courses are groomed and track-set when conditions permit.  This year that's not a problem and the snow is great on both courses.  We've been out skiing a few times at Confederation Park already, and just ventured out to Shaganappi yesterday.  Loops of 1-3km can be made in both parks and the terrain is mostly flat.  It's an ideal way to ski with young children who can't navigate the hills in Kananaskis yet.  For more information on cross country skiing in Calgary, visit the City of Calgary's website

Skiing at Shaganappi Point Golf Course
Skiing at Confederation Park Golf Course


Two - Go Sledding

It's a classic winter activity, gear is cheap (just buy a sled), and the whole family can participate.  For a list of sledding hills in Calgary, visit the City of Calgary's website.

Sledding and Skating in Banff below the Banff Springs Hotel


Three - Ice Skating!

Skating is one of our favourite winter activities and it's another affordable sport to take up as a family.  Second hand skates are easy enough to come by and community rinks are scattered around the city.  Our community is fortunate to have a pond lit up with Christmas lights every evening and a fire pit in the middle for warming up cold hands and faces.  For a list of city outdoor ice rinks and ponds visit the City of Calgary's website.  Most city ponds will be open within the next week in time for Christmas.


Skating in Banff


Four - Take a Trip to Kananaskis Village

  • Go downhill skiing at Nakiska (There is no charge to ski in the beginners area accessed by magic carpet lifts, and children under 6 ski for free on the whole hill.)
  • Go tubing at Nakiska at their new Tube Park.  (Open weekends and holidays, adult and youth tickets are $10 added on to a ski pass.  Special tube park only tickets are also available  and children under 6 are free with an adult.
  •  Go skating at the Village outside the Delta Kananaskis Lodge. (skate rentals can be found at Kananaskis Outfitters on site.)
  •  Go cross country skiing on the groomed track-set trails around the Village.  (2-4km loops are available for young children and maps can be found at Kananaskis Outfitters )
  • Go snowshoeing around the village on official signed trails.
  • Go sledding on the village toboggan hill located near the playground
Really, you could actually stay for a week to do everything!  Contact Hostelling International if you want to do just that.  Their Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel is located just below the Village and ski hill.  It has 3 private rooms and features a fully stocked kitchen, indoor plumbing, and as cozy fire side room.   To read one of my reviews on the hostel, follow this link to Winter Camping in Kananaskis.

Cross country skiing at Kananaskis Village
Skating at Kananaskis Village

Five - Go skiing at Canada Olympic Park

For families that don't want to drive out to Nakiska, Canada Olympic Park is a good local option.  It's only $10 for a child between the ages of 3-5 to use the Discover Park for four hours accessed by four magic carpet lifts.  Parents are an additional $5 if you want to walk around the Discover Park with your child to help out.  We took Noah to COP a couple nights ago for the first time and it was amazing how quickly he picked up skiing.  In no time at all he was mastering the wedge and he definitely did not want to go home!

If you plan to go to COP often, I recommend getting a season's pass for your child.  For $35 you can get a pass for children 5 and under.  For another $30, you can buy a season's foot pass for parents accompanying their kids in the Discover Park.  Both passes are direct to lift which saves you time going in to the lodge for tickets each time you go to COP.


First Time Skiing at COP

Six - Take a Day Trip to Banff

  • Go for a short hike on the Fenland Trail (packed down and generally in good winter condition for boot traffic without snowshoes)
  • Visit the hotsprings for a special treat
  • Take a trip up the Banff Gondola for a very special treat (yes, it's open in the winter)
  • Go skating on the pond below the Banff Springs Hotel, located beside the parking lot for Bow Falls
  • Go skating on the Banff Ave rink, located right downtown in Banff
  • Go sledding on the hill at Bow Falls beside the skating rink.
  • Go cross country skiing on the Banff Springs Golf Course or do the Spray River Loop starting from the Bow Falls parking lot or behind the Banff Springs Hotel.
  • Climb Tunnel Mountain (ice cleats recommended)
  • Drive out to Lake Minnewanka (cross country ski trails, snowshoe trails, and sightseeing
  • Take a drive to Johnston Canyon (winter wonderland without the summer tourists.  Ice cleats recommended if there's been no fresh snow.)
For more information on any of the above, stop by the Visitor Information Centre on Banff Ave or visit the Town of Banff's website.  More ideas can be found on the Banff Lake Louise Tourism website. 

Johnston Canyon in winter
Hiking the Fenland Trail in winter
Skiing in the Cascade Valley, Lake Minnewanka

Seven - Take a Day Trip to Canmore

  • Visit the Canmore Nordic Centre for family-friendly cross country skiing, skating or sledding (day passes required for skiing)
  • Skate on the pond in downtown Canmore
  • Go Dog Sledding with Snowy Owl Tours for a very special Christmas treat the family will never forget!!

Skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre

Eight - Try a little winter biking!

Do you have a child who loves their Strider balance bike?  Did you know the bike comes with a ski attachment?  For an additional $35, you can convert your child's Strider bike into an all-season bike and mean snow machine!   Check out this You-tube video for the ultimate snow bike experience.   The skis can be purchased anywhere you buy Strider bikes, and in Alberta you can get them from Alberta Balance Bikes in Calgary. 

It's a great Christmas gift idea and would guarantee some snowy winter fun over the holidays.  We've been using our bike on toboggan hills in the city and we took it into the backcountry for a true test.   While you do have to carry or push it up hills, it performs well on groomed or soft powdery hills and glides with ease.  Think of it as a fancy sled. Attach it to your backpack for hiking trips that involve uphill trekking before you hike back down again.

Strider Ski Bike
Hiking the Snow Bike into the Backcountry

Using the Ski Attachment on a local sledding hill

Nine - Go check out one of the holiday light displays

We love going to the Airdrie Festival of Lights and the Lion's Festival of lights in Confederation Park.  Both offer free admission with the Airdrie Festival accepting donations.  For a small extra cost in Airdrie you can take a ride around Nose Creek Park in a small train.

Riding the Train at the Airdrie Festival of Lights

When we go to Confederation Park, we like to park at the Golf Course on Collingwood Drive NW and ski or hike across the park until we get to the light display.  We also bring a sled with us to use on the toboggan hill located right at the lights.

Sledding at Confederation Park

Skiing in Confederation Park
Finally, while it isn't as affordable (free) as the above two options, if there is any year when you may want to justify visiting the Calgary Zoo for Zoo Lights, this would be it.  It's no small miracle that the zoo is open again after the spring flood and it's a good time to support all businesses affected by the flood. 



Ten -Build a Snowman, Build a Snow Fort, and Just Have FUN outside

Noah asks us daily if we can build a snowman.  Yes, daily!  He loves playing in the snow.  He doesn't really need to go skiing, skating, snowshoeing... - All he wants to do is play in the snow.  So get out into your backyard and build a snowman.  Create a giant fort or igloo. (hours of entertainment  guaranteed with this one!) Have a snow ball fight.  And just play!

Digging snow tunnels is a great way to pass the afternoon
Every kid's favourite winter activity
Kids will spend hours playing on and in an igloo or snow house
Snow ball fights are a fabulous way to have fun outside.

The Christmas Challenge

Choose at least 5 activities or ideas from my list and try them out this holiday season.  I'd also love to hear your ideas for fun ways to get outside this Christmas season.  Leave comments below and we'll be sure to try some of them. 

You're never too old to make a snow angel

Other Inspiration to Check Out

10 Ways to Make Ice Fishing Fun for Kids - Skedaddle Alaska

Polar Bear Roar - 10  Things to Do With Kids Outside this Winter - Skedaddle  Alaska

Winter Escapes Close to Home - Calgary's Child Magazine

Creative Escapes From Winter - Calgary's Child Magazine

Snowshoeing - Family friendly, Affordable, and Easy - Calgary's Child Magazine

How to Celebrate an Outdoor Christmas - Active Kids Club 

Tubing with Kids at Mt. Norquay - Big Grey Rocks

10 Things to Do in the Snow in your Backyard - Outside Mom

Christmas Day Skating

And from My archives:

Happy Winter Adventures - Just Add Sled

Ice Ice  Baby - Winter Canyon Hiking 

How to Choose a Winter Hiking Trail

Cross Country Skiing with Kids - 5 Ways to Make it FUN

Downhill Skiing with Kids - 5 Ways to Make it FUN

Ice Skating with Kids - 10 Ways to Make it FUN

Winter Canyon Hiking

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