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 


  1. Spend sometime snowshoeing and soaking in the hot tub
    Our family loves exploring the local mountains, but our heart lies in BC in manning Paark

  2. Loved this post. This looks like an amazing place to go to take the family to get away from the city and all the electronics. To really enjoy the outdoors!

  3. Thanks for the suggestions! I've added so many to my list 😊

  4. So many great giveaways here! My favourite family ski memory as well as the most beautiful place was our trip into Elizabeth Parker hut last winter, would love to return one day. If we to win the kananaskis stay we would go out for some cross country skiing and then enjoy the hot tub!

  5. Great competition! We started our Canadian adventures with a trip to the Delta (last year's Christmas present), would be great to go back! Skiing at Nakiska, fatbiking for my husband, and swim/hot tub for all!

  6. I have yet to ski anywhere that isn't beautiful. There is something about snow that is magical, everything looks magical. Blue skies are always an added bonus!

  7. If we stayed at the Delta lodge in Kananaskis we would check out the ski hill and tube park, a quick trip to Troll Falls is fun, we still have to head back to the upper falls. - Deirdre

  8. Last year I took my 5 year old son on a ski trip (just the 2 of us) we skied 2 days at Norquay and spent the night in Canmore at a hotel and went to Elevation place. It was awesome!

  9. At the Delta Kananaskis we would go skating, make a snowman and relax in the hot tub!

  10. We stay as a family at the Delta annually! Great base in the mountains to x-country and downhill ski! Not to mention all the fun things to do onsite like tobagannijg, skating, swimming and snowshoeing! A perfect winter wonderland adventure!

  11. My favourite place to ski is Fernie. I love the large bowls and the small town feel. I learned to snowboard there and I've had some of the best powder days of my life at that resort.

  12. Wow! Great contests-the Delta Kananadkis was on our list this year-we went last year and we all loved it!

  13. I would love to stay at the Delta and do some skiing and skating from the lodge. We have never stayed before but have had a great intro to xcountry ski day at Pocaterra many years back with a friend. It was my first time on xcountry skis and the routes were great! Sadly it was pre-flood so I think the trails we skied have changed. We have yet to ski as a family but I'm hoping this winter it'll happen at the Nordic Centre!

  14. The Delta in Kananaskis is such an awesome property. We'd take in some snowshoeing in the area and be sure to spend time at the pool/hot tub/sauna (and I LOVE their eucalyptus steam room)! Maybe stretch this into a weekend adventure and use our Nakiska passes for a day on the slopes.

  15. We love the Delta and would so enjoy hiking and skiing in the area! My fav ski memory is just this past year, getting 2 of my 3 kids on skis. All 3 will be out this year! And the most beautiful place I have cross-country skied is tied... Canmore and Gatineau Park in Quebec.

  16. I like all the ideas for spending time together and creating memories. I was trying to come up with ideas for my extended family last night so this was perfect timing. I really like the idea of booking something and then putting it on a calendar and gifting the calendar.

  17. We'd love to go skating & drink hot chocolate at the beautiful Delta Lodge :)

  18. Amazing giveaway! I would love to take my son to the mountains after the holidays and create some special memories together :)

  19. Thanks for the giveaway entries

  20. The Delta would be great to do some snowshoeing and to find a sledding hill!

  21. My favorite family skiing memories were as a child. It was so much fun when we reached the stage that all of us could ski together like 5 little ducks in a row!

  22. Another great post full of ideas for outdoor adventures. At the Delta, we'd squeeze in as much as possibly, both down hill and cross country skiing to say the least. I have so many great family ski memories, both from when I was a kid, and now the I have kids. One strong memory is waking up to giant cinnamon buns then heading to Lake Louise together. I would love to give the starlight snowshoe to my parents, my Mom would really enjoy it. So many beautiful, quiet places, I'd have to say backcountry skiing at Mosquito Creek just because that's where I got engaged.

  23. I've done a ton in the area but never stayed at the lodge before. Great post as always Tanya!

  24. My family would love to spend some time in Kananaskis! We love everything out there! We would swim and skate and snowshoe, and who knows, maybe even try to get the kids out on Xcountry skis!

  25. My favourite ski memory was last year's trip to Kimberley with M, it was so fun to ski the entire mountain as a family.

  26. We love Kananaskis! We'd skate, ski, and snowshoe... a great way to bid it goodbye until we can come for a visit :D

  27. Most beautiful? Wow I have to pick? Snowshoeing around Upper K lake

  28. We would like to try it all. We're new to actually enjoying winter. We would skate,cross country ski, toboggan, hike to Troll Falls, maybe a day trip to ski/tube at Nakiska, and definitely chill in the pool and hot tub.

  29. I feel like the timing on this article was just right. I read the whole thing through, took notes, and made some plans!

  30. My favorite ski memory isn't even's family lore...when our super fun Aunt lost control on the bunny hill and plowed through the lineup for the tow rope!

  31. My list of skiing locations is short and I've never been snowshoeing, so I'll go with Cameron Lake in Waterton.

  32. Wow! What fantastic ideas! Thank you Tanya for putting them together and sharing links to other bloggers as well.

  33. My favourite ski memory is going with my siblings and learning for the first few times! We would wait on each other on the mountain to make sure everyone was ok!

  34. Lake louise is the most beautiful place to ski!

  35. A favorite skiing memory is Christmas break ski trips with left over turkey buns and stuffing for lunch.

  36. I would love to spend time playing in the snow and sledding!

  37. I have never gone skiing but would love too!

  38. I love being in Kananaskis country its the most beautiful place on earth!

  39. Love the 'isolation' of the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis - hikes and swimming are great!

  40. We've never stayed at the Delta but I've heard so many great things about it! I'd love to spend some time outside with my toddler and then relax in the hot tub. Thank you for the chance to win !!!

  41. Cross-country skiing and go for a skate on the lovely pond in the evening!

  42. My favourite ski memories are all related to quality time with my family - smiles, spending all day outside, the amazing photos my dad always took.

    The most beautiful place I have ever gone skiing is still Lake Louise - the top of the mountain on a bluebird day is as good as it gets

  43. Great ideas for some amazing family adventures this winter :) Thanks, Tanya!!

  44. Some great ideas. Thanks for the tips. My husband is always tough to buy for. One of these would be perfect!

  45. I would absolutely love to take the family out to Kananaskis to try snowshoeing for the first time - I can't imagine a better place to have that experience! Of course, we'd also love to spend some time tobogganing! :) Thanks for the wonderful giveaways!

  46. Everywhere in Alberta is absolutely beautiful for skiing! My personal favourite is Lake Louise, the views never fail to take my breath away!

  47. We would Snowshoe and Toboggan as well as hike

  48. We've ever been in the winter but we enjoyed kayaking, paddle boarding and hiking in the summer. I suspect snow shoeing and Xcountry skiing would be our choices.

  49. If I won the stay at the Delta in K country, we'd definitely take advantage of their little skating pond!

  50. My fave ski memory is back when Wintergreen was a ski hill. It was my first time trying snowboarding. I had the most sore tailbone for weeks afterwards from falling so much, but it was such a blast!

  51. I would love a stay in Kananaskis that way my husband could join us!

  52. Anyday skiing is a good day! I love all my memories :)

  53. I love xc skiing when the trees are coated in snow and it looks like you are in a snow globe.

  54. Around the lake in Kananaskis.

  55. Taking the girls on the chair lift for the first time was pretty special. :)

  56. We will be staying at the Delta Kananaskis Lodge just before Christmas and I'm looking forward to hot chocolate around the tree with my kids and going on a moonlight snowshoe tour! This is our 3rd year skiing with our kids and watching the girls progress and being able to do all the runs with me and my husband is the best experience!

  57. Nakiska is my favourite place to ski!

  58. I'd love to just take the family out hiking in Kananaskis to enjoy all the beautiful scenery this winter!

  59. While staying at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis I would go skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, stargazing, and go on sleigh rides with my family.

  60. I think snowshoeing is a great way for a family to enjoy to the clean mountain air!

  61. The most beautiful place I've gone snowshoeing is on Lake Louise during the holidays!

  62. This would be fantastic!! Thanks for the opportunity.

  63. We would do snowshoeing and we would like to experience dog sledding tour.

  64. We would definitely spend time in the hot tub.