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.

Winter Yurt Camping at Mount Engadine Lodge


Read More:

Winter Fun in Cypress Hills Provincial Park

Yurt Camping in Kananaskis at Mount Engadine Lodge 

Winter at the Lake O'Hara Lodge

Easter at the Elizabeth Parker Hut, Lake O'Hara

Backcountry Cabin Camping with Kids (Elk Lakes Cabin, BC)

Ribbon Lake Backpacking Adventure with Kids (chains and all!!)

Summer Backpacking Trip to the Asulkan Cabin, Rogers Pass

Backpacking in the Bugaboos (and our first family glacier traverse)


Elizabeth Parker Hut, Lake O'Hara

Camping


We "relaxed" a little with "car camping" this year and only spent 21 nights in our trailer (one year we reached 40!) We focused more on backcountry trips this summer along with "comfy" trips where we stayed in wilderness hostels, condos, and vacation rentals.

When we were camping in the front country, we tried to focus on camping in Alberta Provincial Park Campgrounds because I was chosen as an Alberta Parks Ambassador for this past season. I'm hoping the relationship continues in the coming year as we enjoyed visiting some new parks this past summer.

Read more on the new campgrounds we visited this past summer here:  Three New Alberta Parks Campgrounds to Visit 


Camping in William A. Switzer Provincial Park



Scrambling and Climbing Mountains  

Climbing mountains was a huge focus this past year, and by the end of October we had tackled (and successfully reached) 11 summits as a family. Noah is proud that he finally made it up to the platform on Lady Macdonald in Canmore, something he'd been wanting to do all summer, and I'm proud that he accomplished several multi-summit days including an epic 5-summit day where we traversed between Ha Ling Peak to Miner's Peak and the connecting three humps.

Lady Macdonald Platform in Canmore


Overall, this is the area where I feel my son truly shines in the mountains. He was reaching height gains of 1100 metres by the end of the summer and never seemed to get tired, even after reaching the third summit on the long Tent Ridge traverse. By the end of the hikes I'd be exhausted and ready for bed whereas I'm sure Noah could have kept going for another hour or two. The kid is a machine when it comes to hiking and is definitely faster than me on the way down now. By next summer he'll be about as fast as me on the way up too.

East End of Mount Rundle Summit, Canmore

Noah also has zero fear of heights and tackled some pretty impressive ridge walks and summits for a 7 year old. For those trips we always brought Dad along and made sure there was a rope!

Read more on our summer scrambles here: First Summits: Mount Lady Macdonald Hike, Canmore. (The story has links at the bottom to all of our other scrambles and summits this season.)

Mount Fairview Summit, Lake Louise

Biking


The big accomplishment of the summer here was our 40 km ride on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail in BC from Chute Lake down to Penticton (in a day!) It helps that it was mostly downhill but it was still bumpy and loose in sections, and definitely not paved. We got to ride through the beautiful Little Tunnel and enjoyed much beach time after.

Riding through the Little Tunnel above Penticton


All in all, mountain biking was one of our favourite things to do together as a family this year and Noah definitely out-bikes me. On our last ride over Thanksgiving I had to bail onto the "baby trail" and take an escape route back to the highway while my boys kept riding on the intermediate terrain that I was too scared to continue on. Next year will be truly scary!

We also really enjoyed big bike tours this past summer. Two of them are mentioned below where we'd bike 20 km loops combining several fun trails around the Banff area.

Bike Touring in Banff



Read more:

Biking to Cat Creek Falls, Kananaskis

Tour de Banff - The Ultimate Family Bike Tour

Tour de Banff - The Ultimate Family Mountain Bike Loop

Biking the Kettle Valley Railway from Kelowna to Osoyoos (updated for 2016)

Fall Biking! 5 Places to Explore with your Family

Mountain Biking in the Columbia Valley, BC


Paddling and Water Sports


We did an overnight paddling trip on the Red Deer River in July and as per normal for Central Alberta in summer, severe thunderstorms were predicted over the weekend we planned to do the trip. (The previous time we paddled the Red Deer River a tornado was following us down river.) We decided we really didn't want to be camped on a river bank during an epic thunder storm and chose to set up a base camp at the half way mark instead (complete with our trailer.) In the end, it was a very wise decision and one heck of a nasty storm blew in that evening.

Red Deer River Overnight Paddling Trip


I enjoyed my stand up paddleboard for another season and Noah continues to become quite the proficient paddler in his own kayak. The goal for next year: to get him a real kayak and possibly some lessons.

Read More:

Family Paddling on the Kananaskis River

Paddling the Alberta Badlands

Paddling on the Kananaskis River

Rock Climbing


This category is newly added for 2016 because I have a child who can now climb a 5.7 or 5.8 route outside and who truly loves rock climbing (just like his dad!) I still show up to belay but at least I'm out with the family and everybody gets more climbs in with me happy to stay on the ground.

We are very fortunate to have a great group of friends to climb with as well and so we spent a couple of family days at the crag rather than just driving out for short evening climbing nights. And of note, fall was warm enough that we were climbing outdoors in November this year instead of skiing!

Read more about our climbing adventures here: Gym to Crag - How to Transition to Outdoor Rock Climbing

Rock Climbing at Wasootch Creek, Kananaskis

Snowshoeing and Skiing


We did a few snowshoe-specific adventures this past year but we've really transitioned to being a ski-family much of the time, and enjoy both cross country along with downhill skiing.

Last winter we took our first family ski trip to Fernie and I was thrilled to get Noah skiing with me on my favourite run in the entire Canadian Rockies. We also took our first family trip to Kimberley Alpine Resort, a ski hill that has always been my favourite, and it was an amazing weekend!

Kids Tree Skiing at Kimberley Alpine Resort

Noah has really taken to cross country skiing as well and by the end of the 2016 winter season in March, he had skied over 140 km. (The goal was 100.) We celebrated a successful ski season by skiing in to the Elizabeth Parker Hut at Lake O'Hara over Easter where Noah skied the full 12 km in on his own steam.

Cross Country Skiing at Lake Louise

We also attempted our first family backcountry ski trip and it was awesome!! We had Noah hike up to Chester Lake in Kananaskis, while we carried his downhill skis and boots, and then he got to ski down. We towed him across the flats and I tried to survive on my skinny skis with metal edges and climbing skins. Lucky Dad had backcountry skis. I have a huge list of other backcountry trips we hope to do this coming year.

Getting a tow across the flats before the ski down from Chester Lake


Read More:

Winter at Lake Louise

Family Guide to Fernie Alpine Resort

100 Kilometres on Skis so far this Winter

Introduction to Family Backcountry Ski Touring

Family Guide to Kimberley Alpine Resort

Easter at the Elizabeth Parker Hut, Lake O'Hara


Backcountry Ski Trip into Lake O'Hara


Top Ten Highlights of 2016 



One - First Family Ski Trip to Fernie Alpine Resort last January

Many people don't realize that I had to have a hip replaced after my son was born and that technically I'm not supposed to do a lot of the stuff I do in the mountains, including downhill skiing. Add the fact that I've always found Fernie Alpine Resort to be a challenging resort, and that I hadn't done any skiing at a big ski hill since becoming a mom (7 years ago,) and I was terrified in the days leading up to our Fernie trip last January.

The trip was empowering for me because I realized I could still ski intermediate groomed terrain, that I could ski solo with my son, and that my days on Falling Star were not over forever. It's always been my favourite ski run and I was thrilled to be flying down it with Noah at my side.

Read More: Family Guide to Fernie Alpine Resort

Fernie Alpine Resort at the top of the Timber Chair



Two - Girls Ski Days in January at Lake Louise

I have two favourite cross country ski trails in the Lake Louise area that I like to do annually with my girlfriends. The first is Paradise Valley and the second is Boom Lake. I got to do both this year and we got to ski up the creek in Paradise Valley for the first time in many years because it was frozen enough. It's one of the most beautiful ski tours in the Lake Louise area and I was thrilled to introduce two of my girlfriends to this classic tour. I also enjoyed my annual ski across Boom Lake to the waterfalls at the far end of the lake.


I'm hoping to do both tours as a family soon.

Magical Ski  Touring in Paradise Valley at Lake Louise


Three - Family Ski Weekend at Kimberley Alpine Resort in February

This was one of those magical weekends where the skiing was incredible, family time was amazing, and the food magical. Noah truly came alive on his skis this weekend and he loved skiing through the trees in the special kids' area. I loved that I could comfortably ski runs off every chair lift and that I felt safe at this resort with all the lovely groomed corduroy. Finally, I'm still dreaming of the great food at the Pedal and Tap Restaurant that I hope to visit soon this coming winter.

Read more: Family Guide to Kimberley Alpine Resort

Kids Tree Skiing Runs at Kimberley Alpine Resort


Four -  Family Backcountry Trip to Cypress Hills Provincial Park in February

This is one of those trips that didn't start out well. We were supposed to ski into a backcountry cabin  in this Southern Alberta provincial park, but there was no snow. We ended up hiking into the cabin on bare roads that we could have almost been biking. And then there was a controlled burn we had to hike through. (not ideal!) Our friends then had to leave a night early when one of their kids became sick.

Our backcountry Cabin in Cypress Hills Provincial Park

The redemption for this trip though came on the final day when we got to hike back to civilization on beautiful trails (as opposed to the roads we hiked in on) down to the Town of Elkwater, where our friends had parked our vehicle for us. We walked out of the bush and right into the town restaurant where I ate the biggest and best plate of chili cheese fires ever. We then got to try the town skating loop (a flooded campground loop) and the luge track (wicked fast and fun.) It was an awesome day full of simple pleasures that still stands out in my mind as a great day this past year.

Read more: Winter Fun in Cypress Hills Provincial Park

Skating in Elkwater, Cypress Hills Provincial Park



Five -  Easter at Lake O'Hara in April

This was a notable trip because of the great friends that joined us at the Elizabeth Parker backcountry hut. We snowshoed and skied around the area, built the craziest luge track for sleds, built a giant snow fortress complete with tunnels and caves, and hunted for Easter eggs in the snow. It was a fun trip and we had a fabulous group of kids.

Read more: Easter at the Elizabeth Parker Hut, Lake O'Hara 

Exploring around Lake O'Hara last Easter


Six -  Reaching the South Summit on Nihahi Ridge in June

Delayed gratification makes everything better and this was our second attempt to reach the south summit via an extremely narrow ridge walk. We short roped Noah to keep him alive should he fall and he was a champ with the hands on scrambling pitches. It was a super fun scramble and showed us he truly was ready for bigger challenges in the upcoming summer.

Read more: Family Hiking at the Next Level - Scrambles and Summits

Just a "little bit" narrow on Nihahi Ridge


Seven - August Summer Vacation in BC

There are actually several highlights from this vacation which means it was a pretty awesome two-week trip.

Swim Bay in Peachland


Main highlights (with links to read about the adventures):



Hiking to Asulkan Pass, Rogers Pass 

WildPlay Kelowna

  • Water play at the beaches in the Okanagan, playing at the Penticton and Kelowna Wibit Aqua Parks, jumping off of the trestle bridge in Okanagan Falls, playing at Swim Bay in Peachland, and daily jumping off of docks and swim platforms. (Read more about all of our fun adventures here.)

Jumping off the Trestle Bridge in Okanagan Falls

Seriously, awesome fun!!!
First Family Glacier Traverse in the Bugaboos


Eight - August Family Scrambles and Summits

We had the most amazing friends visiting us from Utah in August so we did a lot of super cool adventures together. First, we hiked into the Conrad Kain Hut in the Bugaboos (above,) and then we spent a day climbing and traversing Tent Ridge in Kananaskis together with two other families. Tent Ridge has three summits and is a very long day hike for most adults. The kids were rock stars on this one! You can read about that trip here: First Summits: Tent Ridge Horseshoe

Rock Star Hiking Crew on Tent Ridge

We also climbed Mount Fairview at Lake Louise with our visiting friends and added Saddle Mountain on for a two-summit day with 1100 metres of height gain. We had a third family joining us and it was another amazing day in the mountains.You can read about that trip here: First Summits: Mount Fairview and Saddle Mountain, Lake Louise.

Mighty Kid Crew on Mt. Fairview



Nine - The First September Snow Storm in Banff

Yes, go figure, the first snow fall of the season would be a highlight, but we love snow! We were on our way home from a weekend at Lake Louise and decided to take a ride up the Banff Gondola to check out the recent renovations. The higher we got, the more snow there was until we got to the top and found ourselves in a winter wonderland. There was next to no snow on the ground so we were in awe that we could be on top of a mountain making snow angels in September.

September in Banff at the top of Sulphur Mountain


Ten - November Skating Season in Banff and the Bow Valley

Normally we are lucky if Johnson Lake freezes and we get one skate in before snow covers the ice. This year, we not only got to skate on Johnson Lake but we also got to skate on Vermillion Lake and Lac Des Arcs for the first time. Both of those were on my life-skating list. Add Elbow Lake in Kananaskis (where I carried my skates up to - just in case it was snow free,) along with Gap Lake and Grotto Pond in the Bow Valley, and it's been an amazing skating season!

Skating on Vermillion Lake, Banff

A couple of the special moments were playing skate-tag as a family on Johnson Lake (on a day that was absolutely perfect in every way,) and skating around the little island on Lac Des Arcs on ice that was as smooth as glass.

Lac Des Arcs - Smooth as glass!

So far we've skated on 8 different lakes or ponds this season (if you count the pond at Kananaskis Village and Bowness Pond in Calgary) and Noah is absolutely in love with skating! We've reached that magic stage where he's doing fairly well at skating, can move across the ice pretty quickly, and truly enjoys it. Thank God!!

Playing tag on Johnson Lake, Banff

2017 is going to be another awesome year and I hope you'll continue following our crazy family adventures. Happy New Year and expect Gotta do THIS January to be published in the first week of January.

Happy New Year and we'll see you on the trails in 2017!


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dressing Kids for Winter Success

We've just gone through a two week deep freeze with temperatures down to -35 C with wind chill. Taking my son to school each day required enough outer wear that I felt like I should be heading out for the day to go skiing, and I won't pretend that we got outside every day to play after school. Indoor recess for two weeks aside, we did survive the cold spell and I learned a couple of things.

Warm for Winter Success
Two weeks of freezing cold temperatures taught me that yes, we could still go outside to play for a short hour, even if we did have to dress as if embarking on an arctic expedition. I also learned that I am willing to drive over an hour to find warmer weather. (Last Saturday we actually drove to BC for coffee when we saw that it would be 15 degrees warmer.) Finally, I learned that while I am often cold outside, my son, Noah, on the other hand is rarely ever cold.

I asked Noah why he thinks he is so warm. His answer was "Because Mommy always dresses me warm and doesn't have time to dress herself. If we went to the arctic, Mommy would be an ice cube." He then continued to tell me about his clothing and how he wears fuzzies and two layers of shirts to stay warm.



So how do you dress a child for winter success so that he or she can say they are rarely ever cold?



 

 

Staying Warm Starts with Quality Base Layers


We were given the opportunity to test out the Helly Hansen Kids' Warm Set base layers this winter from Canadian company, Altitude Sports. This long underwear set is made of Merino Wool and believe it or not, it's the first time my son has worn wool base layers.  He has always loved soft fabrics and layers of fleece, and I was worried that Merino Wool would be itchy. I can confirm that this Warm Set is definitely not itchy nor scratchy in the slightest and that I'd never know it was made of wool (warmth aside.)

Soft and Comfortable Helly Hansen Base Layers


Other winning properties of the Helly Hansen base layers for kids:

"This is the best wool baselayer on the market. Combining the unique Lifa® fiber technology next to skin to keep you dry, with a premium Merino wool exterior with superior insulating and wicking properties. Knees and elbows has a 100g Polartec® fleece reinforcement." - Altitude Sports

What we are loving about this base layer set:

Warmth! Truly there is a difference between good base layers and the $15 set from Walmart. In my personal opinion you could spend the extra money on Merino Wool long underwear and then buy the cheap department store snow pants to go over top instead.

Helly Hansen Kids' Warm Set
The Helly Hansen base layers for kids fit snug against the skin to keep warmth in. They don't ride up when you put another layer on over top, and both the top/bottoms have cuffs at the ankles and wrists, again to keep heat in and prevent against bunching up.

They are soft and comfortable. (And this coming from a sensitive child who would revolt if I put him in a traditional wool sweater.) They are non itch- allergy neutral and great for kids who'd honestly prefer to be wearing cotton.

They have fleece knee and elbow reinforcement patches (a plus if kids are wearing their long underwear while playing in the house, crawling around on the floor, or running around in a wilderness hut or cabin.)

They are designed to be dry next to the skin. My son has been dressed in three layers on both top and bottom and I've never taken off his long underwear to find him sweating or wet.




Mid-Layers on the Cold Days


We often skip the mid-layers when it's warm outside or just wear one warmer "base layer" that serves as both a base/mid layer. For example, my son will wear fleece pants under his snow pants when skating, sledding, or just going to school. (And this is one thing you can buy from a department store as fleece pants shouldn't cost you a fortune.)

Winter Success in Wool Pants, Stonz Bootz and Stonz Mittz
When it's cold outside, our go-to mid layer for the bottom is a pair of Ella's Wool pants. They are essentially a pair of wool leggings but fortunately my son hasn't realized yet that most boys his age wouldn't be caught dead in leggings. (And I'm not about to tell him because these wool pants are super warm!) Combined with Merino Wool long underwear, my son is guaranteed to be warm down to -30 for an hour or two outside.

On top, my son has this great fleece lined polyester shirt that I found at a department store for less than $20. I love the shirt and wish I had a few myself. Alternately, a fleece shirt or hoodie works well as a mid-layer. The big key is that it should not be made of cotton unless you're just going to school, playing on the sledding hill on a warm day, or building a snowman in the backyard.

 

 

 

Over Layers for the Win against the Cold


For ski pants and jackets, I have found the one-piece Ducksday Ski Suit to be a life saver on cold days.

Another item I am loving is my son's North Face Thermoball Jacket. We pair the North Face Jacket with a pair of ski pants on warm weather days when a one-piece snow suit would be overkill.

Dressed for warmth on a cold ski day in the Ducksday Ski Suit

Accessories, Boots, and Mitts


I am a huge fan of Canadian Company, Stonz Wear, for kids' boots and waterproof mitts that fit over the jacket. You can read my review from last year here: Another Winter With Stonz Children's Wear. A new review will be published in January with a giveaway.
Skiing in the North Face Thermoball Jacket


 
Other important add ons:









Thanks to Altitude Sports for providing us with a set of Helly Hansen kids' long underwear this winter. It was the missing piece of the puzzle for us in ultimate winter warmth. Now I guess we have to work on me since my son thinks I'm going to turn into an ice cube.

And shopping tip: Altitude Sports is having a pre-Boxing Day sale right now with up to 40% off select items. The kids' long underwear set featured in this story is also 20% off right now.


Winter is Fun when you're Warm

Disclaimer: We were given a set of Helly Hansen long underwear to review. As always, all words are my own and I wasn't paid to write this story.


Monday, December 05, 2016

Gotta do THIS - The Christmas Edition

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 Christmas and the holiday season.

Gotta do THIS - Christmas in the Canadian Rockies

Hopefully you've already read Gotta do THIS - The December Edition. It focuses on winter hiking, snowshoeing, canyon and ice walks, cross country skiing, and mountain skating. There are also two giveaways to help families with young children get outside more easily this winter.

I originally intended to include Christmas and holiday activities in "Gotta do THIS December" but changed my mind when I realized you would need an hour to go through all of the information I wanted to share!

I decided to write a second Gotta do THIS post this month dedicated purely to the topic of getting outside this holiday season, to finding ways to celebrate an outdoor Christmas, and to enjoying this dark time of the year underneath beautiful twinkling lights with the family.

Everybody looks good in a Santa hat



Gotta do THIS - The Christmas Edition


 

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. This year the CP Holiday Train arrives at Nose Creek Park in Airdrie at 5:30pm on Friday, December 9th. The entertainment goes from 5:45 - 6:15.

Families may also want to travel out to the mountains to see the train. It travels to Cochrane, Morley, Canmore, and Banff on Monday, December 12th this year with 45 minute stops in each town. The full schedule can be seen here (including the date for Calgary.)

Concert on the CP Holiday Train Stage



2.  The Spirit of Christmas in Bragg Creek - This festival runs on two more days this weekend, December 10th and 11th with reindeer showing up on the 11th. 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. (Our highlight one year was the wagon ride with Santa riding along with us leading us in Christmas carols.)

Santa and Reindeer for the Win in Bragg Creek

If you want to visit the Spirit of Christmas with my family and join us for some cross country skiing or snowshoeing in West Bragg Creek first, send me a message. It's officially on my calendar for this Sunday, December 11th so that we can see the reindeer.

Wagon Rides with Santa in Bragg Creek

3. The Lion's Festival of Lights, Confederation Park  - The 30th annual Festival of Lights runs nightly until January 8th in NW Calgary. 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 in previous years but it looks like they have a light display on the hill we normally slide down this year.

Sledding at the Lion's Festival of Lights


4. Zoo Lights at the Calgary Zoo - This popular event is back until January 8th and I recommend going early! By 7:30pm it's so crowded you can't move in the park and the line up to buy tickets is insane! Go at 4:00pm if you have an annual zoo pass (or earlier if you want to spend the afternoon looking at the animals.) And if you are paying zoo light pricing rather than for a day admission, you can pay and enter the park as early as 4:30pm. At this time, there are no line ups and you'll still get to see a few animals before the buildings close for the night.

Zoo Lights at the Calgary Zoo

We went to zoo lights last Saturday at 4pm with our annual passes and friends arrived at 4:30pm, paying zoo light pricing. We visited a few animals, had dinner at the cafeteria, and had the whole park to ourselves. AND the lights were on by 5pm. By the time the park started to get busy, we were on our way home having already seen Santa, toured the lights, and played in the giant hay pile for over half an hour. Next time we go, we'll take advantage of the free skate rentals and skating rink.

Santa 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 new interpretive centre, have lunch in the newly renovated cafeteria, and fly over Banff in the incredible movie playing in the theatre.

And for those on a budget, you don't have to pay to ride the gondola down 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.

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


6. Skate with Santa at the Canmore Nordic Centre - I've got this one on the calendar for December 22nd because it seems like a great way to get out for a family-friendly ski at the Nordic Centre and then enjoy some skating afterwards.

Trail fees are in effect for skiing at the Nordic Centre but the RE/MAX annual community skate with Santa is free. I've heard that the event takes place from 4:30 - 7:30 pm but it would be a good idea to call the Nordic Centre to confirm before heading out.

Learning to ski at the Canmore Nordic Centre

7. Ski With Santa at Nakiska Ski Area - Ski with Santa on December 24th at Nakiska Ski Area in Kananaskis. And personally, I'm thrilled that this is on the 24th and not the 25th. We might actually make it out this year to look for Santa on the slopes. AND then when we're done, we can head over to the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis to look for Santa's reindeer (more on that below under getaways for Christmas.)

Ski with Santa at Nakiska Ski Area this Christmas


8. New Year's Eve Party on the Pond in Canmore -  We've never spent New Year's Eve in Canmore before but this would be my top pick for how to spend New Year's in the Canadian Rockies. Enjoy skating on the pond downtown Canmore with fireworks as you start a new family tradition.
And while I can't speak for availability, the Alpine Club of Canada has affordable family accommodations at their Canmore Club House. There are also plenty of hotels and resorts nearby as well so do a quick search to see if you can find something close by rather than having to drive back to Calgary at midnight.

Skating is always a fun activity to do over the holidays


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. 

Cabins along the lakeshore of Emerald Lake

 For more inspiration check out these links:

Christmas at Emerald Lake and Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts

Four Reasons to Celebrate the Holiday Season in the Rockies

Special Packages at the CRMR Resorts (including for Christmas and New Years)

Hiking across Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park

 

 

Spend Christmas at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis



One of our favourite places to head for a day trip before Christmas is Kananaskis Village (and if you can stay overnight at the Delta 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'll be at the Delta Lodge this year on the 23rd, 24th and 25th,) and hang out inside the Delta 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.)

Finally, you can literally ski or hike right out the door of the lodge. From the lodge you can ski down to Ribbon Creek, ski down to a connector trail that takes you to Wedge Pond, or hike around the Village on signed snowshoe trails. You'll never need to drive anywhere if you choose to cross country ski, snowshoe, or go skating. There's even a small sledding hill at the resort and Nakiska is only a 5 minute drive up the road.

Christmas at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis


For more information check out these links:

Christmas and New Years Festivities at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis

Deals and Packages at the Delta Lodge
  
Merry Mountain Christmas Package at the Delta Lodge

Ten Reasons to Spend Time at Kananaskis Village This Winter 

Ski Trails at Kananaskis Village

 

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:

  • NEW cross country ski trails being built right outside the door

  • 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
Mount Engadine Lodge from the meadow below

For more inspiration check out these links:

Yurt Camping in Kananaskis at Mount Engadine Lodge

Paradise at Mount Engadine Lodge

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 last year's Christmas hike in Johnston Canyon in this story.

Christmas hiking at Johnston Canyon


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. This is much harder to do if you all have to go back to your own house by 8pm to put the kids 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. This year we are determined to make it up to the Hale Hut (with the kids skiing on their own up there) and we might try some downhill skiing at the resort too.

  • 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.

Skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort



Additional Inspiration and Reading

Spend Christmas Outdoors


How to Celebrate an Outdoor Christmas


10 Ways to Celebrate a Calgary Outdoor Christmas 


Check out my Christmas Pinterest Page


Gotta do THIS - December Edition 


Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Families (2016)


Winter Escapes in the Columbia Valley


Waking up to a New Year in the Columbia Valley


Celebrating an Outdoor Christmas

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