Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Gotta do THIS - March Edition

This will be the 11th edition of "Gotta do THIS" and then we start over again with April (the first edition I started with in 2016.) If you've enjoyed this series, please leave a comment below or feel free to send me an email. I'd love to hear how this monthly series has inspired you, what you've taken away from it, and even what you've enjoyed most about each edition.

Gotta do THIS - March Edition

I have not completely decided on whether I will continue this series for a second year so I do sincerely value your feedback. I also welcome suggestions if there are topics you'd like to see me cover in future editions.

Without further preamble, here is the next edition of  "Gotta do THIS in the Canadian Rockies this month." As always, I tend to focus on day trips accessible from Calgary with road trip suggestions for weekends or holidays.

Gotta do THIS - March Edition

1. Check off one final ice hike this month

It's no secret that we love ice here. Frozen waterfalls, icy canyon walks, and ice-skating all make the list of things we love to enjoy in March before our beautiful ice melts for another summer.

Trying to skate Grotto Canyon
Below is some recommended reading if you want to head out on a final ice hike this month.

Jura Creek - The Best Winter Hike in Kananaskis

Ice, Ice, Baby - Winter Canyon Hiking 

The Wildest Winter Family Hike in Kananaskis 

The Most Popular Hike in Banff without the Crowds  

Ice Caves and Frozen Waterfalls in Banff National Park 

Grotto Canyon Ice Walk (5 Reasons we LOVE this Hike)

Troll Falls is another short hike to a beautiful frozen waterfall and young kids will enjoy the Troll Stroll en route to the falls where kids can hunt for hidden Troll dolls.

Ice Safety note: Ice cleats or spikes are highly recommended for all ice hikes. I also recommend helmets if your child is going to be "crazy" on the ice - like mine!

And to find XS microspikes for kids, see below under number 3 - climb a mountain. A store in Canmore is currently selling a bunch.

Sliding down ice falls in Grotto Creek Canyon

Finally, if you want to enjoy one last ice-skating day, I absolutely have to recommend Bowness Park in NW Calgary. We love skating down the creek (which is open for skating farther than I've ever seen in previous years.)

Skating down the creek in Bowness Park, NW Calgary

2. Try Family Backcountry Ski touring in Kananaskis

Last March we took our son, then 7 years old, up to Chester Lake in the Spray Lakes Valley for an easy introduction to backcountry ski touring. It was a lot of fun for all of us and we each used a different ski setup to make the trip work.

I used cross country skis with metal edges and wore skins for the ascent. My husband used actual backcountry skis (again with skins for the way up to the lake.) My son hiked up (we were all going the same pace anyway) and then skied down using his resort downhill gear. (So yes, we hiked up his downhill skis and boots for him.) 

Introduction to backcountry ski touring at Chester Lake

We also had a tow rope for the flat sections on the way down because it's pretty hard to ski across meadows in downhill skis.

Getting a tow ride across the meadows at Chester Lake

The trip was perfect as an introduction to backcountry skiing because there is no avalanche danger between the parking lot and the lake, and the trail was well packed down for easy following. 

You can read about our adventure here: Introduction to Family Backcountry Ski Touring

Easy skiing out from Chester Lake on downhill skis

AND, if you're looking to extend your trip into a two-day wilderness outing, try yurt camping for a night at nearby Mount Engadine Lodge. While there you'll enjoy all-inclusive meals and have access to the decadent main lodge building. 

You can read about our adventure here: Yurt-Camping in Kananaskis at Mount Engadine Lodge.

Yurt Camping at Mount Engadine Lodge, Spray Valley Provincial Park

3.  Climb a Mountain

It's here, the month we finally return to summits and hiking up mountains! I've done two March ascents of Ha Ling Peak in Canmore and we also hike up Prairie Mountain in the Elbow Valley like an annual pilgrimage each March to usher in spring. 

Ice cleats or spikes are highly recommended for both summits in spring (preferably Kahtoola microspikes) and you can expect snow on both trails. Personally, I also save Ha Ling Peak for later in spring if doing it as a family outing. Prairie Mountain however is very safe, even when snowy, and there's no cliff to fall off of at the top. (Both of the first two photos in this story are from the summit ridge of Prairie Mountain.)

March Ascent of Ha Ling Peak in Canmore

You can read about one of our family ascents of Prairie Mountain here: More First Summits - Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis. 

And, you can read about our first family ascent of Ha Ling Peak here: Ha Ling! My Baby Climbed his First Real Summit. 

March ascent of Prairie Mountain in the Elbow Valley

And Insider Tip on Finding XS Kahtoola Micro Spikes for Kids: The XS size has been discontinued but by no small miracle, Switching Gear in Canmore has managed to find a bunch. They've already sold the first 20 sets but have ordered another batch. If you want a pair I'd call and place your order before they sell out too.

Prairie Mountain Summit in March

 4. Plan a Spring Ski Vacation

March is one of my favourite months to go skiing for warm weather, happy days on the hill with no frozen toes or fingers, and for the patio opportunities. (It's so much nicer to be able to eat lunch outside rather than having to squish into a crowded day lodge!)

March skiing at the Nakiska Ski Area and there's still tons of snow! (Photo: Resorts of the Canadian Rockies)

We'll be making the trek out to Fernie Alpine Resort this month (which has been receiving dumps of fresh powder nearly daily) and you can read about skiing as a family at this resort here: Family Guide to Fernie Alpine Resort.

To read about the trip we "just took" to Fernie, read the story here: 5 Reasons for Families to Love Fernie Alpine Resort

Ski in/out Lodging at Fernie Alpine Resort

Another resort we LOVE as a family is Kimberley Alpine Resort. Read about our adventures in Kimberley here: Family Guide to Kimberley Alpine Resort or The Ultimate Family Ski Weekend at Kimberley Alpine Resort

You can also check out my newest story for the Kimberley Alpine Resort blog: How to have more GREAT Ski weekends at Kimberley Alpine Resort.

Bluebird Days and Spring Skiing at Kimberley

Top Spring Festivals you don't want to miss:

  • Fernie Griz Days Winter Festival - March 3rd - March 5th (3 day festival of fun family-friendly events, activities, and entertainment including fireworks and a parade. The festival wraps up with the Raging Elk Dummy Downhill Race at Fernie Alpine Resort on the 5th)

  • Fernie Griz Kids Winter Carnival - March 25th (Free activities at Fernie Alpine Resort for the family)

  • Spring Fiesta Weekends at Nakiska Ski Area - This event runs Saturdays and Sundays for the first three weeks in April until April 16th. (Have fun with some spring skiing and DJ entertainment in a slope side lounge. A face painter and balloon artist will be on site for the kids)

  • Kimberley Spring Splash - April 8th and 9th (Register to ski or board into a giant pool of water with live entertainment and beer gardens on site at Kimberley Alpine Resort to celebrate closing weekend. There is also a dummy downhill race similar to the one in Fernie during Griz Days)

  • Fernival Festival at Fernie Alpine Resort - April 15th and 16th (The "Biggest free outdoor concert in the Canadian Rockies" and great spring skiing at Fernie Alpine Resort for closing weekend)
Spring Splash at Kimberley (photo: The Real McKenzie Photography / Resorts of the Canadian Rockies)

Affordable Lodging Tips for Ski Vacations:

While we'd all like to stay at a luxurious ski in/out condo at Fernie or Kimberley, sometimes it's just not in the cards (or the budget) and a family has to get more creative.

Hosteling can be a great alternative to staying in an expensive condo on a ski hill and there are some hostels located very close to our favourite ski resorts.

To read about staying at the HI Kananaskis Hostel, located just minutes from Nakiska Ski Area, read: Affordable Family Ski Vacations in the Canadian Rockies. By hosteling, you can also cook your own meals which will save you money over staying in a hotel.

The HI Kananaskis Hostel (near Nakiska Ski Area)

You can also read about our recent stay at the HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre, just a short drive away from the Lake Louise Ski Resort and with ski in/out access for gorgeous cross country trails. That story is here: Family Guide to the Lake Louise Ski Resort

HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre (near Lake Louise Ski Resort)

In Fernie, check out accommodations at the Raging Elk Hostel with free breakfasts and private rooms. Alternately if you want an affordable option for ski in/ski out lodging, look at the Fernie Slopeside Lodge which is right at the base of the Fernie Alpine Resort but much more affordable than condo suites on the hill. Most of the units in the Slopeside Lodge are hotel-style rooms but if you look into renting the Alpine Suite with a couple other families, it has four bedrooms and a kitchen. (and right on the ski hill!)

Stunning Scenery from the Lost Boys Cafe, Fernie Alpine Resort (photo: Mark Shannon / Resorts of the Canadian Rockies)

For ski weekends in Kimberley, consider booking a motel room in nearby Cranbrook (much cheaper than staying on the ski hill) or check out availability at the Inn West / Kirkwood Inn where one-bedroom suites start at $123.00 per night (and you'll be right beside the Kimberley Nordic Club, with a short ski down to the base of the Alpine Resort.)

Blue bird days and Spring grooming at Kimberley Alpine Resort

Money Saving Tip: If planning to stay at a hostel, always ask if there are ski packages available. Many hostels have packages that include lift tickets with your stay.

Other useful links:

Fernie Lodging Company

Kimberley Lodging Company

RCR Vacations 

Fernival at Fernie Alpine Resort (photo: Resorts of the Canadian Rockies)

5. Plan a Trip to the Columbia Valley for Spring Break

If I had to pick just one place that I'd like to move to for the months of March through May, it would be the Columbia Valley in nearby BC. (And actually, I could move there year-round and be quite happy too!)

Everything starts just a little bit earlier in the Columbia Valley around Radium Hot Springs and Invermere from paddling season to hiking and mountain biking. Seriously, I've had my paddleboard out on a lake near Invermere over Easter and we always head west for Mother's Day to go mountain biking on dry ground (no snow in sight.)

Early spring paddling over Easter in the Columbia Valley (most of the lake was ice-free)

And my newest obsession, fat biking, is something that you can do right now if you plan a trip over spring break! Seriously, do it!!

This could be you over March Spring Break in the Columbia Valley

For more inspiration, check out these stories below and then grab your calendar to mark down a trip west to the Columbia Valley this spring.

Fat Biking and Cross Country Skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort

Fat Biking at Nipika Mountain Resort

The Best of the Columbia Valley (Radium Hot Springs to Invermere - and beyond)

Explore the Columbia Valley, BC this Spring - Calgary's Child Magazine

Never a cold day at Radium Hot Springs

Other Suggestions for Spring Break and Easter Family Travel

If you're still looking for a snowy adventure for Spring Break, consider booking a trip to Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park to ski or snowshoe in one of the most beautiful spots in the entire Canadian Rockies.

You can read about our recent adventures at Emerald Lake Lodge here: Family Weekend at Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park 

Paradise at Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park

Other Inspiration for Spring Travel:

And here's a big tip: You can make reservations for backcountry huts and wilderness hostels a year in advance!

This means that you can already reserve for Family Day 2018.

Spring Break dates for 2018 will be coming up soon as will the reservation date for Easter 2018.


  1. Nice post Tanya! I always get great tips from your articles - so I hope you keep posting whether it's the "gotta do this" or whatever you feel like writing about!

  2. I always look forward to this monthly post. Being that we are new to Calgary and Alberta this is a great way for us to learn about new places to check out and things to do with the kids. We have tried to do a couple things each month that we see listed in your posts and our kids have been loving it. We went to Jasper and Lake Louise in January for weekend getaways to see festivals you had posted about. We have checked out some of the hikes you mentioned and also some great skiing. Others we have added to our bucket list for another time or when the kids are a bit older.

    1. Thanks Katy. I'm so happy to hear how much these posts have inspired you. I hope you had a great time in both Jasper and Lake Louise!

  3. Thanks for these great posts! So helpful to getting the family outdoors!!