Friday, January 24, 2014

Winter Escapes in the Columbia Valley

Every winter we cross the Alberta border from Calgary into British Columbia at least once or twice to spend a weekend in the Columbia Valley.  Our favourite place to explore in the valley is the mountain town of Invermere.  Located 3 hours SW of Calgary between the Kootenay Rockies and the Purcell Mountains, Invermere is close enough for an easy weekend away.  From skating and cross country skiing on Lake Windermere to downhill skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort, there is no shortage of things to do in the valley!

Skating on the Lake Windermere Whiteway

We spent three nights in the valley over New Year's and used the town of Radium Hotsprings as our base camp for the trip.  Located 15 min. north of Invermere, it was close to everything we wanted to do over our mini-vacation and allowed us to be close to the hot springs that the town is named for. We shared a very comfortable condo with another family, and truth be told - I could have moved in permanently. 

Fireworks on New Year's Eve in Radium Hotsprings

In just a few days we managed to go cross country skiing twice, skate a distance of 15km on Lake Windermere, put our son on the beginner hill at Panorama Mountain Resort, see an amazing fireworks show, and even do some sledding. 

Skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort

Skating and Skiing the Lake Windermere Whiteway

The Lake Windermere Whiteway is a 15km groomed track for ice skating and cross country skiing that loops around Lake Windermere.  It connects the two towns of Invermere and Windermere, located on opposite sides of the lake.  A very large oval is cleared for ice skating between the two towns, and ski tracks are groomed and maintained around the oval.

Ice Skating on the Whiteway
Sleds highly recommended for an 11km skate with kids

There's room for skate skiers as well and we saw many people riding their bikes around the lake on the snow covered ice.  In the middle of the lake, locals were pulling children around on tubes while towing them with snowmobiles, and ice fishing shacks were plentiful.  There's even an ice road traversing the lake to connect the two towns without having to go up to the highway.

Posing in front of an ice fishing village

The Lake Windermere Whiteway is the best use of space I've ever seen, allowing an entire community to share the same playing field while participating in over 5 different sports at the same time.

HAD to cross the lake on the ice road!  Super Fun!!

We skated 11km on our first day at the Whiteway, skied the same distance the second day, and then skated another 4km on our third day around a smaller part of the lake.

Beautiful Lake Windermere in Winter
Skiing around the Whiteway (not quite as fun as ice skating)

Other Trip Highlights involved taking our son to Panorama Mountain Resort to ski , watching fireworks on New Year's Eve in Radium Hotsprings, going to the hotsprings, and cross country skiing as a family at Lake Lillian.

Skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort
My Super Skier
Radium Hotsprings in Winter

Lake Lillian

This was our first time to ever visit Lake Lillian and we will definitely be back!  With patches of ice cleared off for hockey, 3km of groomed cross country ski trails around the lake - which is the perfect length for kids, and fire pits for roasting hot dogs, this day use area offers everything for a great family outing!

Skiing on Lake Lillian

You won't find much on the internet about this small lake, but drive towards Panorama Mountain Resort on the Toby Creek Road and you'll see the sign for the lake on your right hand side about 7km outside of Invermere.

Pond Hockey on Lake Lillian
The Perfect place to go skiing with kids

We had a great trip and we look forward to many more awesome trips in the Columbia Valley this year.   To read about more of our adventures in the Columbia Valley over the past two years, check out the previous posts I've written on the area: 

Happy 2014!!


  1. What a beautiful place - looks like you had a great time!

    1. Thanks Linda. It's one of our fav. places to visit. Now to buy a house there...