Monday, November 17, 2014

My personal TOP 10 LIST of cool things to do this winter

 Last month I was speaking at Campers Village on the topic of learning to embrace the cold and how to fall in love with winter.  It got me thinking about my favourite things to do in the cold months and so I made a top ten list of awesome things to do from November through March.  Below is my personal list of COOL things to do this winter.  I hope you'll join me in checking some of these things off your list over the next few months.

Winter Paradise on Bow Lake, Banff

1.  Get first snowshoe tracks at Highwood Pass this November.  Highway 40 is only open over the Pass until the end of the month so go now for some amazing early-season snowshoeing, winter hiking, and even backcountry sledding.

Find out more on my story: November Hiking and Backcountry Sledding at Highwood Pass.

November Snowshoeing at Highwood Pass

2.  See the Banff Santa Claus Parade.  The parade is on Saturday December 6th and is part of the Winterstart Festival in Banff.  Along with the evening parade, there is entertainment all day long with opportunities for the kids to even try ice carving.

To read about our adventures at the festival last year, read:  Christmas in the Rockies - the Experience

Banff Santa Claus Parade
Ice carving at the Winterstart Festival

3.  Take a night hike to see the Lions' Festival of Lights in Confederation Park.  Every winter from the end of November through early January, Confederation Park in Calgary has a beautiful light display for the holiday.  Start at the Confederation Park Golf Course on 19th Street and Collingwood Drive and hike through the golf course to reach the lights on 14th Street.  Use a sled for a fun sled hike.

For more information visit the Lions' Festival of Lights website.  Opening night is November 29th this year at 5:00 pm and there's been fireworks in previous years.

Christmas lights in Confederation Park

4.  Go skating on a frozen lake. Skating in Banff and Kananaskis is one of the most beautiful things you can do this winter.  Not to mention, a classic Canadian experience every family should try.  Our favourite lakes are Lake Louise (go at the end of January or in early February to skate around an ice castle,) the pond in downtown Canmore on 7th Avenue, the pond below the Banff Springs Hotel beside Bow Falls, and the pond at Kananaskis Village.

For more information on skating in the mountains, visit the Banff Lake Louise Tourism website or the Banff National Park site.  Information on Canmore rinks can be found on the Town of Canmore website.

Skating on Lake Louise

5.  Go to the Ice Magic Festival at Lake Louise in January.  The festival runs from January 16th through the 25th and features an ice castle on the lake, an international ice carving competition on the first weekend, and the Little Chippers Festival for kids on the second weekend.

Tips for enjoying the festival:  Don’t go on weekends and go slightly AFTER the festival has finished in early February.  You can still see the ice sculptures and skate on the lake in February - without the crowds.  Also, go early morning for best light.  By late morning Lake Louise is in the shade at this time of year.

To read about our adventures at the festival last year (and see all of the great photos) visit my story:  20 Years of Ice Magic at Lake Louise.  And for more information on the festival events, go to the Banff Lake Louise Tourism website.
Ice castle on Lake Louise during the Ice Magic Festival

6.  Slide down an ice slide during Snow Days in Banff.  The Snow Days Festival in Banff runs from January 10th through the 8th of February.  There are many events during the month long festival, but our favourite activity is the ice slide in downtown Banff near the bridge.  There are also ice sculptures and last year there was an ice train.

For more information on the Snow Days Festival and events, visit the Banff Lake Louise Tourism website.  

Banff Ice Slide
Ice Train at Snow Days Festival

7.  Attend the Canmore Winter Festival.  This festival runs from February 13th through March 1st and makes my list because it's the only time you'll ever get to x-country ski down Main Street, Canmore.  Festival events include Snow Tracks on Main Street, ice carving, snow sculpting, and the popular Kid 'n' Mutt Races.  And if I haven't convinced you to attend yet, watch this video of the festival.  You'll be booking your condo for a weekend guaranteed!

For more information on the festival and events, visit the Canmore Kananaskis Tourism website.  

Meet dogs from Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours at the festival

8.  Hike a frozen canyon.  If you've ever hiked Johnston Canyon in summer, you know that it's crazy busy and popular!!  In winter though, it's quiet, serene and peaceful.  It's a lovely hike in Banff and I highly recommend it.  Other canyons that are super fun are Jura Canyon or Grotto Canyon in Kananaskis and Maligne Canyon in Jasper.  Note that for all canyon hikes, you should have ice cleats or walking crampons for the ice.

For more information on these canyons in winter read my stories:

Hiking in Jura Creek Canyon
Maligne Canyon, Jasper

9.  Hike to a frozen waterfall.  Troll Falls in Kananaskis is another popular summer hike that few families do in winter.  Meanwhile, the trail is wide, groomed, and easy for winter hiking.  You can also snowshoe to the falls if you are looking for an easy snowshoe trip, and the trail is track-set for x-country skiing.

For more information on this hike, visit the Alberta Parks website for trail description.  Note that it indicates starting from the Ribbon Creek Day Use Area, but it's actually shorter to start from the Stoney Trailhead (map here.)

Troll Falls in winter

10.   Go for a walk on a frozen lake.  Last winter we took a hike on frozen Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway in Banff.  It was one of the most beautiful hikes we've ever done, and we had the whole lake to ourselves.  Just make sure your lake of choice is well frozen and that you stay away from avalanche slopes that may hit the lake (so stay in the middle of the lake and avoid the edges.)

And if you go to Lake Louise, you can actually ski across the lake because Parks Canada puts tracks down across a section of the lake.

To read about our adventures on the Icefields Parkway in winter, read my story:  Beyond Lake Louise - Where the Real Magic Begins

Playing in the middle of Bow Lake, Banff
Skiing across Lake Louise

Want more cool ideas?  Good! Continue on to 5 More Cool Things to do this Winter (for a total of 15 awesome ways to embrace the cold)

 Hiking Johnston Canyon in Banff

And Continue on to read the final 10 Cool things to do this winter here:  10 More Cool things to do this Winter (for a total of 25 awesome ways to embrace the cold


  1. What a fun list, Tanya! You've certainly inspired me! Makes me want to make a little list of my own--I've done summer & fall bucket lists this year, so I for sure need to do a winter one.

  2. Yep, watched the video of the Canmore festival and just booked our hotel in Canmore! Thanks so much.

  3. Such a great list! Thanks for sharing :)