Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 in Review and Top Ten Highlights

2016 was another busy year filled with awesome adventures and travel around our beloved Canadian Rockies. As I look back at my highlights from the year, what really stands out to me are the moments where we took time out to "play" as a family, the days where we embraced child-like wonder and fun, and the trips where we slowed down enough to do silly things, be it playing a game of tag on skates on a beautiful mountain lake or stopping to make snow angels in the backcountry when we really should have been hurrying to get back before dark.

2016 in Review and Top Ten Highlights (photo: Asulkan Pass, BC)

2016 in Review


Backcountry and Wilderness Trips

Between each member of the family (including a few solo trips my husband and I each took) we completed 14 wilderness and backcountry trips, staying in cabins, huts, hostels, and backcountry campgrounds. We hiked into a new backcountry cabin in Cypress Hills Provincial Park that we'd never been to before and we visited two Alpine Club of Canada backcountry huts for the first time as a family.

Asulkan Cabin, Rogers Pass

I also got the opportunity of a lifetime to stay at the Lake O'Hara Lodge for a night while writing a story for Snowshoe Magazine and we got to try winter yurt-camping for the fist time at Mount Engadine Lodge in Kananaskis.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The BEST of Christmas in the Canadian Rockies

There's finally snow on the ground, my house is decorated for the holidays, and I've been listening to Christmas music for two weeks already. I love December and I always have a huge list of fun things that we want to do to celebrate the holiday season.

Gotta do THIS - The Best of Christmas in the Canadian Rockies

This Christmas guide has been updated for 2021.

Gotta do THIS - The Best of Christmas in the Canadian Rockies


One - Attend a Fun Family Outdoor Christmas Event

We have several favourite Christmas events that we attend annually as a family. Then there are always new events that we discover each year - ensuring our calendar stays nice and full. Add a few to your own calendar and make some fun memories this season.

1. The CP Holiday Train -  This beautifully lit up train travels across Canada each December collecting donations for local food banks and spreading holiday cheer with live entertainment. A stage opens out of one of the box cars and it's always a big party with kids dancing in front of the colorful train.

The CP Holiday Train rolling across the country

We like seeing the holiday train in Airdrie so that we can go to the Airdrie Festival of Lights at the same time and take a ride on one of the miniature trains.

The train also travels through the mountains every second year stopping in at Cochrane, Morley, Canmore, and Banff. Visit the website  to view the full schedule

Cancelled for 2021 due to Covid-19.

Concert on the CP Holiday Train Stage

2.  The Spirit of Christmas in Bragg Creek - This festival runs over two weeks in December. While you probably won't spend the entire day at the festival, it's fun to head out for a short ski or hike in West Bragg Creek and then stop by on your way home to take in some of the free family activities, to see Santa and his reindeer, and to enjoy a wagon ride.

Santa and Reindeer for the Win in Bragg Creek

Our highlight one year was the wagon ride with Santa riding along with us leading us in Christmas carols.

Edit for 2021: The event is happening for one day only on the first Saturday of December, December 4th. 

Wagon Rides with Santa in Bragg Creek

3. The Lion's Festival of Lights, Confederation Park  - This free festival runs every December in Calgary with an opening ceremony that always has fireworks. While you can just park near the gates and walk in to see the lights, we like to park over by the Confederation Park Golf Course off Collingwood Drive and then we like to ski or hike across the golf course. Sledding has also been fun while there.

Sledding at the Lion's Festival of Lights

4. Zoo Lights at the Calgary Zoo - This popular event runs from late November through early January every year and I recommend going early. The closer you get to Christmas, the busier the zoo will be.

I also suggest going early to see the lights on your chosen night. We like to go right when the event starts at 5:00pm. And note you can not stay over from a daytime visit to the zoo. The grounds will be cleared out by 4:30pm in preparation for the evening event.

The evening zoo lights event requires a special ticket and it's recommended you buy tickets ahead of time online. 

Inspire Members have unlimited free access to Zoo Lights.
Engage and Child Members receive a one-time 50% of discount on Zoo Light admission tickets.

Visit the Calgary zoo website to buy tickets.

Zoo Lights at the Calgary Zoo

5. Mountaintop Christmas at the Banff Gondola - Free with your admission to the Banff Gondola, you can visit with Santa, decorate Christmas cookies, make a craft, and participate in a fun family scavenger hunt. Take a tour of the beautiful interpretive centre, have lunch in the cafeteria, and watch a fun Christmas movie playing in the theatre.

And for those on a budget, you will get a discounted ride down on the gondola in the winter if you hike up. The trail is pretty snowy right now though so if you plan on hiking up the 700 metres of height to the top of the gondola, bring spikes or ice cleats for traction. I also recommend checking the Banff Trail Report for the Sulphur Mountain Trail.

Also know that Alberta residents save up to 15% on gondola tickets, and children age 5 and under always ride for free. 

It's recommended that you purchase tickets ahead of time online. 

Santa found his way to the top of the gondola in Banff

Two - Plan a Pre-Christmas Mountain Getaway

Spend Christmas at a Wilderness Hostel

We like to spend the weekend before Christmas at a remote wilderness hostel in Kananaskis or Banff and have been doing this for several years now. We go skiing, snowshoeing, skating, and play in the snow with friends. Some years we've made gingerbread houses and other years we've exchanged a few presents.

Christmas at Mosquito Creek

Below are some of my pre-Christmas wilderness hostelling stories if you'd like to be inspired to try this yourself.

Christmas Getaway in Kananaskis at the HI Kananaskis Hostel

Christmas Getaway at the HI Castle Mountain Hostel

Christmas Getaway at the HI Mosquito Creek Hostel

Christmas in Kananaskis at the HI Kananaskis Hostel

Have a bigger budget and want to spend a few nights in the mountains this Christmas? Below are my top picks for where to spend a truly magical Rocky Mountain Christmas.


Spend Christmas at Emerald Lake Lodge, Yoho National Park, BC

With ski or hike in/out cabins on the lakeshore, Emerald Lake Lodge is a great place for active families wanting to play in the snow without going far from their hotel room. Families can ski or hike across the lake, ski or hike the circuit around the lake, or ski/hike on numerous other trails in the area. You can even ski from the lake down to the Town of Field (which would be awesome with a second vehicle down there waiting for you.)

The resort has a great outdoor hot tub as well and the dining is some of the best in the Rockies.

It can be noted too that the last time I stayed here, I proclaimed that camping was stupid and that I was born to be a princess within the first 5 minutes of arriving. So take mom here and treat her like a princess for a couple of nights. 

Read: Family Weekend at Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park 

Cabins along the lakeshore of Emerald Lake

Spend Christmas at the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge 

One of our favourite places to head for a day trip before Christmas is Kananaskis Village (and if you can stay overnight at the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge it's even better!) We go cross country skiing or hiking at Ribbon Creek, go downhill skiing at Nakiska Ski Area, skate on the outdoor pond at the village, visit with the reindeer (they usually bring them in right before Christmas) and hang out inside the lodge by the beautiful fireplace.

Stay overnight and you can also enjoy the amazing swimming pool and hot tub as well as stay for dinner in one of the excellent restaurants (something we even do on day trips occasionally.)

Read: Ten Reasons to Spend Time at Kananaskis Village This Winter 

Christmas at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis

Spend Christmas at Mount Engadine Lodge, Kananaskis

If there's one place I've truly fallen in love with over the years, it's Mount Engadine Lodge. We've stayed here numerous times (winter and summer) and have always had an extremely memorable stay.

Top Reasons to stay at Mount Engadine Lodge:

  • Cross country ski trails right outside the door in the meadow

  • Easy access to the Mount Shark ski trails, Chester Lake, and Rummel Lake

  • Close to Canmore if driving out Saturday afternoon after spending the day in the Bow Valley

  • Amazing location in Spray Valley Provincial Park with SNOW that you have to see to believe

  • Beautiful lodge rooms, cabins and suites in what feels like a backcountry ski lodge - but that has drive up access

  • All inclusive stays with lodging + all meals included

  • A cozy rustic yurt on site for those who want to try winter camping with all the comforts of the lodge and meals next door (and the lodge has just built glamping tents on site!) 
Mount Engadine Lodge from the meadow below

For more inspiration check out these links:

Yurt Camping at Mount Engadine Lodge

Christmas Day Trips

Don't have the time, budget, or energy to plan an overnight trip right before Christmas? You can still round up your Santa hats and head out for a day hike. Check out our photos from our Christmas hike in Johnston Canyon in this story.

Go for a Christmas day hike in the mountains! 

Three - Plan a New Years Getaway

We love going away for New Years with friends and sharing a cabin or condo so that we can celebrate New Year's Eve with the kids during the daytime but then continue the celebration after the kids have gone to bed.

New Years Fireworks in Radium Hot Springs

Travel Spotlight: Radium Hot Springs and the Columbia Valley

We love going to the Columbia Valley in BC for New Year's. There are fireworks on the 31st in the Town of Radium Hot Springs and there's no shortage of things to do in the valley!

Some of our favourite things to do in the Columbia Valley over New Years:

  • Go skating on the Invermere Whiteway on Lake Windermere - when frozen, the lake has a giant oval cleared for skating with groomed ski tracks created around the outside of the skating loop. It is the longest skating trail in the world at over 30 km in length. There are also several hockey rinks cleared on the lake and fat biking is another popular sport enjoyed by locals on the lake.

  • Go cross country skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort or on Lake Lillian. The trails are maintained by the Toby Creek Nordic Club and they do a fabulous job. We love skiing up to the Hale Hut at Panorama.

  • Spend a day downhill skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort. Read our ski resort review here.

  • Go cross country skiing at Nipika Mountain Resort just outside of Radium Hot Springs. The Natural Bridge is really cool to ski to and we like doing the loop to return via the Canyon Bridge. There are also warming huts spread out around the property which makes for a family-friendly way to ski with young children.

  • Go fat biking at Nipika Mountain Resort! Read all about that experience here. The resort actually maintains dedicated trails for fat biking (and they rent bikes as well, including bikes for youth.)

Skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort

Additional Inspiration and Reading

Monday, November 28, 2016

First Summits - Mount Lady Macdonald Hike, Canmore

Continuing with my family "First Summits" series, we tackled one final summit this fall for a grand total of 11 family summits by the end of October. Then I went and bashed one of my knees on a tree root (on a very simple hike) and that ended our hiking season. Fingers crossed for quick healing before ski season!!

2023 edit: The platform everybody used to visit on Mount Lady Macdonald has been removed by Alberta Parks so unfortunately you won't get photos like many of the ones shown in this guide anymore.

Mount Lady Macdonald Family Summit

Mount Lady Macdonald is a technical scramble with a knife edge traverse required to reach the true summit. Needless to say we did not hike to the summit! Rather, we stopped at the "Tea House Platform" (They tried to build a tea house up here many years ago before they realized nobody was climbing up 900 metres for a cup of tea I suppose) and sat back to enjoy the views.

The beautiful platform that we reached sits perched at 2260 metres on Mount Lady Macdonald overlooking the Town of Canmore and the Bow Valley. It's an easy hike up to this point, no hands on scrambling required, and most families with experience hiking on steep terrain should have no problems reaching the platform. Most of the hike is on a fairly decent trail and it only gets tricky to follow in a couple of spots.

Awesome Views over the Bow Valley and Canmore from the platform on Lady Macdonald

Stats for Mount Lady Macdonald to the Platform

Height Gain: 888 metres

Distance: 4.4 km one way to the platform

Time that it took us: 5 Hours round trip time

Best Resource Guide: Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, Volume 3

Following the relatively straight forward path up Mount Lady Macdonald

The Motivation behind tackling Mount Lady Macdonald

I'd already hiked up Mount Lady Macdonald (affectionately referred to as Lady Mac) to the platform once this year so repeating the steep grunt of a climb wasn't high on my priority list. Noah however was BEGGING to climb Lady Mac. It was bothering him that I had "climbed" it and he hadn't. I warned him that it was a very steep trail, that it wasn't an overly exciting hike (no hands on scrambling,) and that the only "fun" part would be reaching the beautiful platform. It didn't matter though because he was determined to do this hike.

I promised Noah that I would not go up Lady Macdonald without him again and that I would take him with me the next time I did the hike. I then marked it down for a spring hike (next year) and forgot about it - until one beautiful fall weekend arrived and I realized we still had time to check it off our list this season. And so we did.

My boys on our way up Lady Macdonald

Hiking up Lady Macdonald

The crux of the whole hike is twofold. First, you have to find parking near Cougar Creek and find the trailhead amidst the current construction going on. Second, you have to find the correct trail leading up Lady Macdonald from Cougar Creek. Leaving the creek too soon will take you along one of the wildlife corridor trails and you'll realize that you are traversing the lower slopes of Lady Mac rather than climbing UP the slope.

Trailhead: From the Tourism Canmore website:  "Drive along Bow Valley Trail and turn left onto Benchlands Trail. Follow the road until you see the parking lot on the left side of the road, just before the Cougar Creek Bridge."

And note that the parking lot is currently closed for construction so you'll have to park on the side of the road beside Cougar Creek.

Next, again from the Tourism Canmore website: "Follow the creek. You will reach a signed junction,
stay straight on the creek, a few minutes later you will reach an un-signed junction, go left. Another few minutes later you will reach another junction, go left onto the Lady Macdonald trail. Follow the
most used trail and avoid fainter trails and off-shoots."

And if that above descriptions confuses you too, I suggest bringing a friend along who's done the hike before. Seriously, I've gotten lost before trying to find the correct trail leading off from Cougar Creek - and I've done the hike several times!

Once you find the Lady Macdonald Trail from Cougar Creek, it's a steep but fairly straight forward hike that takes you up 900 metres to a beautiful platform.

And my best piece of advice once you reach the confusing section in the boulders where the trail seems to disappear, is to stay left. Always stay to the far left. There is a very good trail along the left hand side of the boulders.

Up, up, up the steep trail on Lady Mac

Our Experience

It was steep. It was a looooong hike through the trees until we started to get views. It was a slog.

Almost there!
That all being said, Noah loved it and it's probably one of his favourite scrambles/hikes to date because he'd wanted to do the hike so badly. We also ate pretty close to an entire package of pumpkin spice Oreo cookies during the hike so sugar may have helped a fair bit.

Noah loved a sign that he found as we approached the final section leading to the platform. It was encouraging to him and made me think we should make some of these and leave them near the top of all family-friendly summits.

The platform was awesome, we had it all to ourselves, and the views were amazing! I always pick a nice day for the Lady Mac hike because it would be disappointing to hike all the way up and then to see nothing.

The return trip down was an "interesting" one for us. Normally Noah is crazy fast on the descent and runs faster than I could possibly keep up. This hike however, he was definitely walking rather than running and we had to keep encouraging him to continue on. I think it's the first hike ever where he was stronger on the way up than down. Fortunately, I'm sure this will never happen again and I'll be chasing after Noah for the rest of my life as I struggle to keep up.

My boys on the platform overlooking Canmore

Safety Notes with Late Season Hiking


Planning on heading out to hike Lady Mac this season still? Read my previous first summits story: First Summits - Mount Saint Piran, Lake Louise, for some special tips and advisories associated with shoulder season or winter hiking.

As far as I know, there is little to no avalanche danger on the Lady Mac hike (as far as the platform) BUT I am no expert. Consult with a local visitor centre before taking the kids here on a true winter hike up this mountain.

 Lady Macdonald Summit Shot


Other Family First Summits

Family-friendly Summits in Jasper National Park

More First Summits - Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis

Ha Ling! My Baby Climbed his First Real Summit

First Summits - The Mighty Yamnuska with a 6 Year Old 

First Summits - Barrier Lake Lookout, Kananaskis 

The Four Summit Day - Ha Ling Peak to Miner's Peak (and beyond)

First Summits - Forget Me Not Ride, Kananaskis 

Copper Mountain from Shadow Lake Lodge, Banff 

First Summits - Polar Peak, Fernie Alpine Resort

Family Hiking at the Next Level - Scrambles and Summits (Nihahi Ridge to the South Summit)

5 Summit Day in Canmore (Kid-Friendly) - Ha Ling Peak and Miner's Peak  

First Summits - Table Mountain, Beaver Mines Lake 

First Summits - East End of Mount Rundle Summit 

First Summits - Tent Ridge Horseshoe, Kananaskis

First Summits - Mount Fairview and Saddle Mountain, Lake Louise 

First Summits - Mount Saint Piran, Lake Louise

Rest stop at the old Tea House Site on Lady Macdonald

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Families: Trips, Activities, and Tours

I will always remember one of my favourite Christmas gifts that I've received so far as an adult. It was a gift that couldn't fit under a Christmas tree, that couldn't be wrapped, and that required skiing 11 km to enjoy. The trip to a backcountry lodge was given to my husband and I by his parents back in 2006, it's a pretty great gift if you still remember it 10+ years later.

The Christmas gift that took us to Skoki backcountry lodge

We've also had family members buy us ski cards as Christmas presents and my father would buy us discount cards to every hill within a five hour drive of Calgary. It made skiing a LOT cheaper and we were very grateful for those cards.

A Christmas Gift Could Give you THIS Great Experience!

So, now I ask you, what would you like for Christmas? What lodge or resort have you been longing to visit? What tour have you been eyeing up? What bucket list item could a family member easily buy you as a present? Or, what could your spouse buy you that would make your favourite winter sport much easier to do this upcoming season?

Where would you like to spend a weekend with the family this winter?

Below are some suggestions to get you started with your holiday wish list. I hope they will also serve as inspiration if you're looking for ideas for that hard-to-buy-for spouse, outdoor loving parent, or child who has more than enough toys in the house! Choose one of these ideas for your brother, sister, best friend, or even your child's teacher at school if you're working together on a class gift.


Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Families: Trips, Activities, and Tours


Suggestion 1:

A Fun Weekend Away for the Family

If you're immediately thinking that you don't want to spend Christmas away from home, don't worry because I don't either! What I'm suggesting is that you plan a weekend away for the family sometime in the new year. Book a couple of nights at your family's favourite mountain hotel (perhaps a resort you've always wanted to stay at,) and brainstorm some fun activities you'll do while there.

Then, you buy a calendar. You write the date of the trip on the calendar and you wrap it up to put it under the tree, addressed to your family or to the kids. With the calendar, you could type out a nice letter outlining the fun activities you plan to do. Examples could include skiing, a snowshoe tour, an afternoon at a resort tube park, a trip to the hot springs in Banff or passes for the Banff gondola, dinner out at a favourite restaurant, etc.

If buying a trip for an extended family member (and you don't want to book the date for them,) ask the resort about purchasing a gift card. Alternately, I worked with my husband's parents the year they sent us to a backcountry ski lodge. We chose the dates together and surprised my husband with the present.

Winter at the Pomeroy Kananaskis Lodge 

First Featured Mountain Resort: Pomeroy Kananaskis Lodge 

We LOVE the Pomeroy Kananaskis Lodge and it's positively magical during the winter with its skating rink, snowshoe and cross country ski trails right outside your door, sledding hill, sleigh rides, and proximity to the Nakiska Ski Area. The restaurants are family-friendly and affordable, and the swimming pool is worth a stay alone with its indoor/outdoor hot tub and eucalyptus infused steam room. They've also added waterslides in the pool area as of 2020.

To read more about winter at the Lodge, read my story from last winter: Ten Reasons to Spend Time at Kananaskis Village this Winter.

Ski trails right outside your door at Kananaskis Village

Second Featured Mountain Resort: Mount Engadine Lodge, Kananaskis

Choose between yurt camping, glamping in canvas wall tents, cabins, or lodge stays at the all inclusive Mount Engadine Lodge in Kananaskis. Receive afternoon tea, dinner, breakfast, and a packed lunch to go the next day with all stays. Enjoy a backcountry experience with drive up access in the remote Spray Lakes Valley.

  • Try Yurt Camping in Kananaskis at Mount Engadine Lodge - All meals are included with your stay and you can spend as much time as you want inside the main lodge before you retreat to your private yurt for the night.

  • Mount Engadine Lodge Glamping Experience (expect decadence) - Take camping to the next level in a heated canvas wall tent at Mount Engadine Lodge. Each tent has an indoor bathroom, electricity, and a heater. All meals are included with your stay and you can spend as much time in the main lodge as you want before retreating to your tent for the night. Each tent sleeps up to four people with a king sized bed and a pull out sofa.

  • Family Winter Getaways at Mount Engadine Lodge - Don't want to camp or glamp? Stay in the main lodge at Mount Engadine or in one of their beautiful cabins. All meals are included.

Try decadent glamping at Mount Engadine Lodge this winter with your family

Suggestion Two: 

Ski Discount Cards and Passes 

Ski Discount Cards

Didn't jump on seasons passes this year? No problem. Put an RCR Rockies Card in each adult or teen family member's stocking and you'll be able to afford multiple ski days on the slopes this winter. Each card costs less than $100.00 and includes three free days of skiing at four awesome resorts including Nakiska Ski Area, Calgary's closest resort. And for creative gift wrapping, wrap the discount card in a pair of ski socks or a new pair of gloves.

The Sunshine Super Card is another great discount card offering free days and discounts at Sunshine Village, Marmot Basin in Jasper, and Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

And finally, we love the Lake Louise Plus Card where you can get three free days of skiing at 5 great resorts including Panorama and Castle Mountain Resort. You can also link children to your Lake Louise Plus Card so that they receive discounts every time you use your card.

Ski cards, lift tickets, and gift cards make great Christmas gifts!

Read more about ski discount cards in the following stories:

You can also buy lift passes from Costco at a great discount or you can buy online ski tickets for most resorts. These make great Christmas presents wrapped up with a new toque or pair of ski gloves. And, the gift cards would be very useful if planning an afternoon at one of our area tube parks.

A gift card or passes for the Nakiska Tube Park makes for a great family gift!

 Suggestion Three: 

Tours and Guided Adventures

Just to get you thinking, here's a short list of fun tours you could give as a gift to your family this Christmas:

Most companies will print you a voucher that you can wrap up to put under the Christmas tree. Otherwise, book the tour and mark the date on a calendar that you would wrap up. Alternately, you can usually buy gift cards for tour operators if you don't want to choose the date for an extended family member.

Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like an awesome tour booked for the family

Featured Tour Operator: Kananaskis Outfitters 

Kananaskis Outfitters operates a small outdoor retail store out of Kananaskis Village and I can assure you it's a great place to stop if you've forgotten your ski pants at home while heading out for a day of skiing in Kananaskis. (and yes, that has happened to me.) I love stopping in at the store every time I'm at the Village and have been known to build my Christmas list after spending time browsing around the store.

In addition to the store, you'll find a full rental shop here for all your equipment needs while visiting for a day or a weekend. They rent cross country ski packages and snowshoes (including children's sizes,) fat bikes (for youth and adults,) pulk sleds for pulling youngsters on the trails, and ice skates for the whole family (along with hockey sticks and pucks.)

Finally they offer fat bike tours to a frozen waterfall, stargazing snowshoe tours, and daytime snowshoe tours which are suitable for the whole family. Note that the evening snowshoe tours are best suited for adults or for children 12+.

And note if you're wanting to go fat biking as a family, they have two 24" sized youth fat bikes. 

Frozen Troll Falls (a short snowshoe, hike, ski, or fat bike ride from Kananaskis Village)

For full information on rentals and tours, please visit the Kananaskis Outfitters Website.

Also read the story I wrote for Snowshoe Magazine last winter:  Moonlight, Snow Angels, and Snowshoes.  

Try a stargazing snowshoe tour at Kananaskis Village this winter (Credit Kananaskis Outfitters)

 Suggestion Four: 

A Romantic Weekend away for you and your Partner

There are beautiful resorts located all over the Canadian Rockies and chances are, you know exactly which one your partner would like to stay at. I know it wouldn't take much for my husband to pick ten awesome resorts or backcountry lodges that he could take me to - with a guaranteed scream Christmas morning.

Book a romantic weekend away for you and your partner this winter, and as with suggestion one, mark the trip down on a calendar that you can wrap up and put under the tree. Resorts will often print vouchers as well outlining the stay and inclusions of the trip (with meals that may be included for example.)

Emerald Lake Lodge (one of the places we've stayed before as a Christmas gift)

Wanting to do this for a family member? Coordinate with their spouse or partner to pick dates and offer to take the kids for the weekend. (And yes, that's two gifts actually.) Alternately, surprise both parents and leave the trip open ended for dates. Give the couple a gift card/voucher for the resort or print out your own voucher with an IOU for the intended resort.

Finally, this is a great gift to give to your own parents who "have everything," or who can't ever think of anything they want for Christmas.

Pretty sure your partner would approve of a stay at Mount Engadine Lodge! (photo: Paul Zizka Photography)

No babysitter? You can always take the kids with you. Less romantic I know, but many of the condos in Banff have one or two bedroom suites (so you can have some alone time) and a backcountry lodge is always romantic, with or without kids. 

Need some more inspiration: 

Check out my latest story for Snowshoe Magazine: Ten Snowshoe Adventures to try this Winter in the Canadian Rockies. It features many gorgeous front and backcountry lodges, romantic tours, and resorts - many that are just as awesome on a pair of skis if you prefer skiing to snowshoeing. (Just skip the backcountry huts or hostels if you are really looking for a romantic weekend and don't fancy sharing a bedroom with strangers.)

Shadow Lake Lodge in backcountry Banff - romantic with or without kids (Photo: Shadow Lake Lodge)

Recommended Reading: 

Read: Our Favourite Family-friendly Backcountry Ski Lodge (Shadow Lake) - Note, this lodge is now operated by the Alpine Club of Canada but is still an all inclusive package and just as decadent. - Book your stay here

And, if you're staying in Kananaskis, make sure you book a day at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa for you and your partner.

Suggestion Five: 

The Ultimate Outdoor Adventure for your Partner

Do you have an adventurous partner that you never quite know what to get for Christmas? Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling.

  • A Guided ice climbing or backcountry ski day

  • A Course with a local adventure company (intro to ice climbing, backcountry skiing, rock climbing, etc.)

  • Any of the family adventure tours listed above (without the kids) - Think dog sledding, fat biking, a moonlit snowshoe tour, or a Rat's Nest Cave tour in Canmore.

  • An Avalanche Skills Training Course

  • A day at the  Kananaskis Nordic Spa (this is on my annual Christmas list)

Most companies would be happy to give you a gift card or printed voucher for you to wrap up and put under the tree. Think of a creative way to wrap it. (For example, what would your partner need if he/she were to go fat biking for a day?)

Gift your partner with a day of adventure this Christmas

Suggestion Six: 

Tickets to a Concert or Event for you and your partner

You shouldn't have problems thinking of an event your partner would like to go to over the next few months. The one that comes to my mind though is the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. The Tour usually comes to Calgary in January.

Babysitting suggestion: coordinate with friends who also want to go see the film tour. Buy tickets on different nights so you can take turns watching each other's kids. 

And I suspect for 2020, the Film Festival will go virtual so you'll be able to purchase a pass and watch all the movies with your whole family from home. 

Get inspired to travel and to explore at the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour


Suggestion Seven: 

Passes or Vouchers for Family Fun Activities

While this may not be a primary gift for the kids, it makes for a great stocking stuffer. Consider some of the following ideas:

Buy your kids fun passes for Christmas
  • Passes for local theme parks and attractions such as Calaway Park, Heritage Park, the Telus Spark Science Centre or the Calgary Zoo

  • Passes to a local climbing gym. (You can even buy passes for the Climb Park at the Hanger or the Rocky Mountain gyms in Calgary) - see the photo to the right.

  • Gondola tickets in Banff or tube park passes for WinSport, Nakiska or Mt. Norquay

  • Passes to a favourite leisure centre.

Bonus Suggestion: 

A Subscription to an Adventure or Wildlife Magazine 

My son has subscriptions to two magazines and he loves getting them in the mail. The ones I recommend for kids are the National Geographic Kids Magazine and Wild,  which is published by the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

And while you're at the Canadian Wildlife Federation's Website, consider adopting an animal for Christmas.

Magazine subscriptions are great presents for the grandparents as well and ours regularly get a list of publications that the family wants.


Find my complete set of holiday gift guides below

A Holiday Gift Guide for Active Kids