Thursday, November 02, 2017

Gotta do THIS - November 2017 Edition

I said it last year, and it's still true that November is one of my favourite months out of the whole year.  Our first ski day, first ice skating day, and first winter hike of the season will all happen in the month of November.

November means "Skating Season" in the Canadian Rockies (photo location: Vermilion Lakes, Banff)

Shoulder season is definitely tricky but I still LOVE November in the Canadian Rockies, and I'm excited to share my favourite things to do this month with you.

Gotta do THIS - November in the Canadian Rockies 



 1. Visit Calgary's New Indoor Bike Park

This is the only activity I'm featuring this month that will not involve having to touch snow or ice.

Calgary finally has an indoor bike park and its doors have just opened as of the end of October. B-Line Indoor Bike Park is located in NE Calgary off of Memorial Drive, and it will be "the place to be" this winter for families who like to spend their summer months at bike skills parks, skate parks, or BMX tracks. 

I'll be doing a full review in the next week or two, but in the meantime, read below to see what you can expect from a visit to B-Line Indoor Bike Park.

Visit B-Line Indoor Bike Park to find:

  • A loading dock full of amazing features designed for beginners. You'll find low practice features, small to medium pump tracks, and bumps to test your skills before moving on to the more intermediate terrain in the other rooms

  • A big air room called "The Bar" that reminded my son of a giant skate park. The best part though (for us biking families) is that there are no skateboards or scooters allowed at B-Line. This is purely an indoor BIKE park

  • 4 progressive jumplines that are marked green for beginner and intermediate, blue for advanced, and black for expert. Each jumpline is also clearly marked with arrows for where to start/finish (allowing the parent peace of mind that your child won't collide with another rider here)

  • A giant foam pit and Resi. The progressive foam pit has 3 different sized jumps going into it, as well as quarterpipes on each side. The Resi provides the next padded step when you’re ready.
Kids climbing the walls? It's encouraged at B-Line Bike Park!

The park is suitable or all abilities and ages with progressive features suitable for young tots on balance bikes up to expert BMX riders. Children 7 and under must be supervised at all times.

It is recommended that you either rent a BMX bike or a dirt jumper on site, or that you bring your own bike with you. Regular mountain bikes will work fine in the park, but it is highly recommended that all bikes have hand brakes (rather than coaster brakes.) Adults can also use their own full-sized mountain bikes, but again, would do best on a smaller BMX style rental bike from the park.

Finally, helmets are required at all times inside the park.

Please visit the B-Line Indoor Bike Park website for full information on hours, pricing, and bike rentals. And know that non-riding parents are welcome inside the park without having to pay.

Practicing on the beginner jumpline at B-Line Bike Park


2. Plan an Early Winter Retreat in Kananaskis

November is one of my favourite months to go away for a weekend because everything is blissfully quiet. It's not quite ski season yet, the Christmas season is still around the corner, and the summer peak travel season is long behind us.

We will be spending a weekend in Spray Valley Provincial Park outside of Canmore, staying at Mount Engadine Lodge this month.  The Spray Valley always gets lots of early snow by November and so we're super excited to launch the winter season with some cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and playing in the snow based out of a rustic mountain lodge. Hello paradise!

Snowshoeing across the meadow below Mount Engadine Lodge

The lodge has guest rooms for couples inside the main building, but families will want to either reserve the Whiskeyjack Cabin (a private cabin with two rooms, one with a queen bed and one with two twin beds,) or else one of the suites in the main lodge (suites have a queen bed and a pull out sofa for the kids.)

To read about our previous winter adventures at Mount Engadine Lodge, check out these stories:

Paradise at Mount Engadine Lodge

Escape to Snow Paradise in Kananaskis 

Cabin accommodations at Mount Engadine Lodge in the Spray Valley

And for families on a budget, I recommend trying the yurt camping option at the lodge. It is $125 per person per night to stay in the lodge yurt (which sleeps 4 people) and this includes all of your meals while at the lodge (afternoon tea, dinner, breakfast the next day, and a packed lunch to go.)

You can read about our winter camping adventure in the yurt here:  Yurt Camping in Kananaskis at Mount Engadine Lodge 

Yurt Camping at Mount Engadine Lodge, Spray Valley Provincial Park
Another affordable way to spend a weekend at Mount Engadine Lodge is to book for a Saturday night at the lodge. This way, you can drive out Saturday morning to go skiing, hiking, or snowshoeing, arrive at the lodge in time for afternoon tea, and then you'll be there for dinner + breakfast the following day. Spend some more time in the snow Sunday and you've basically spent an entire weekend in the Spray Valley (only having to pay for one night of accommodations.)

Other ways to enjoy Mount Engadine Lodge this month:

  •  Register for a Yoga Retreat at the lodge on the weekend of November 23 - 26th. Lodging and all meals are included with the retreat.

  • Visit for Sunday brunch and then go skiing or hiking the valley.

  • Drop in for afternoon tea after your winter adventure in the Spray Valley.

For more information on lodging, availability, and rates, please visit the Mount Engadine Lodge website.

 Follow this link for information on winter activities in Spray Valley Provincial Park

And you'll also be in close proximity to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (where you'll find the nearby trailhead for Chester Lake.) 

Snowshoeing to Chester Lake, Spray Valley, Kananaskis

3. Discover the Magic of Banff in November

One of the biggest events coming to Banff this month is the annual Santa Claus Parade. (and yes, it used to take place in December but it's been moved up a month.)

Celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season in Banff (photo: Paul Zizka and Banff Lake Louise Tourism)

This year, the Banff Santa Claus Parade takes place at 6pm on Saturday, November 18th.

Visit the Banff Lake Louise Tourism website for more information on the Santa Claus Parade of Lights.

Santa Claus Parade of Lights in Banff


While you're in Banff...

  • Spend the night so that you don't have to drive home after the parade in the dark. (seriously, we hit a deer one year so it's worth the expense.)

  • Visit the Banff Gondola! Enjoy mountain top dining with views over the Bow Valley, hike to the top of Sanson's Lookout, take photos on the roof top observation deck, and visit the new interpretive centre with many touch-friendly exhibits for the children. And, it's free to ride the gondola down if you hike the Sulphur Mountain Trail up. Just pick up a free one-way ticket down at the top.

  • Visit the Hot Springs (especially nice after the parade or a visit to the Banff gondola when you'll need warming up)

  • Enjoy a hike on one of Banff's easy trails. Some of our late fall favourites are the Sundance Trail, the Fenland Trail, and Stewart Canyon at Lake Minnewanka.

  •  Hike to the top of Tunnel Mountain, the easiest summit to reach in Banff.

  •  Take a trip out to Johnston Canyon and enjoy the crowd-free trail! (Read about our winter visit to Johnston Canyon here.)

  • Return for the Banff Christmas Market the weekend of November 24th - 26th
On top of the world at the Banff Gondola

** Note you will want ice cleats for winter hiking in November. And I recommend the Kahtoola Microspikes brand. (Note this is an affiliate link to and I may receive a very tiny amount of money if you shop from them.)

And, if you're looking for XS sized spikes for children, I heard that Switching Gear in Canmore has a fresh shipment in (which will sell out quickly.)

Hiking the Lake Minnewanka Trail to Stewart Canyon

4. Celebrate the Beginning of Skating Season in the Rockies

There are many outdoor ponds, lakes, and rinks in the Rockies that get cleared of snow and maintained by park or resort staff through the winter, usually starting mid to late December. November however gives us a different experience where we can often experience "natural skating" on lakes that are not maintained or cleared of snow.

We often get a brief window mid to late November where some mountain lakes have frozen (thick enough to skate on) without being snow covered yet. Some years, it never happens. Other years, we get a magical window where the ice on certain mountain lakes is smooth like glass and 100% snow free.

November skating on Lac Des Arcs in the Bow Valley

Johnson Lake in Banff has always been one of the first lakes to freeze and my family has skated on it annually for the past 6 years now.

Other options for natural skating are Vermilion Lakes just outside the Town of Banff, the pond at the Grotto Mountain Day Use Area outside Canmore on the Highway 1A, Gap Lake outside Canmore on the Highway 1A, or the Ghost Reservoir outside of Cochrane (also on the Highway 1A, and often good all winter long.)

And if you get real lucky, you might even be able to skate on Lac Des Arcs in the Bow Valley (as we did last year.)

Skating across Johnson Lake, Banff

For more inspiration check out the following two stories:

November is my favourite month to visit Banff 

Ice Skating on the Ghost Lake Reservoir - often great for skating all winter long

And for those wondering, "how do I know if it's thick enough to skate on?" Or, "Is it safe?" - check out the Ice Safety information on the Town of Banff's website.

November on the Vermilion Lake, Banff

5. Launch the Winter Hiking Season at Highwood Pass in Kananaskis

By November I'm always longing for snow and would drive hours to find it. Fortunately, we don't actually have to go that far though because Highwood Pass is reached on the highest paved road in Canada, and gets a lot of early season snow!

Snowshoeing up to Elbow Lake, Highwood Pass

We head out to the Highwood Pass area mid to late November every year to go snowshoeing and to enjoy some backcountry sledding.

Elbow Lake in November, Highwood Pass

I've written a LOT on this topic already so please visit these stories below on "November at Highwood Pass:"

Early Winter Snowshoeing at Highwood Pass

Family Snowshoeing Adventures - Elbow Lake

November Hiking and Backcountry Sledding at Highwood Pass 

Winter wonderland at Elbow Lake, Highwood Pass

And, make sure you get out by the end of the month. The road closes at the end of November and will be closed until late June next year. There is a very brief window to snowshoe up to Elbow Lake or Ptarmigan Cirque while you can still drive to the parking lots.

Also, consult a Kananaskis visitor centre before heading up to Ptarmigan Cirque in November. There can be avalanche danger in this basin if you hike too far in. We always stop at the beginning of the cirque and don't hike any further back. Elbow Lake is the safer option as long as you stop at the lake and don't go exploring too much further.

Ptarmigan Cirque in November, Highwood Pass

6. Get the Skis out for Early Season Snow

This might actually be the biggest reason I love November. My skis FINALLY come up from the basement. We got so excited for this two years ago that we were practically cross country skiing on dirt at Kananskis Village on November 6th! (the earliest I've ever been out skiing!)

Desperate to ski!

Top 3 Places to Find Early Season Snow for Skiing:

1. Ski Close at Nakiska Ski Area

For those who enjoy downhill skiing, most resorts will open in November. Nakiska Ski Area is very excited to be the first ski hill in Canada opening for the season this year with a preview weekend set for November 4th and 5th.

Enjoy skiing off the gold chair (with access from the Olympic Chair which you'll ride both up and down.)

For inspiration, check out this recent story: 5 Reasons to Make Nakiska your Local Ski Hill this Winter.

Early Season Skiing at Nakiska Ski Area

2. Plan a Cross Country Ski Weekend at Lake Louise

The Moraine Lake Road at Lake Louise is always one of the first ski trails to be groomed and track set each season. The Great Divide Trail is another early season favourite in the area. Both trails should be good to go by mid-November (and skiers have already been enjoying both trails without the grooming as of early November.)

Skiing on the Moraine Lake Road / Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography

Rent one of many private rooms at the Lake Louise Hostel and enjoy being able to ski right out the hostel door onto great ski trails. Our favourite trail is the Tramline Trail which begins up at the lake and descends down to the hostel in an easy 4.8 km (all downhill!)

Ski In/Ski Out Accommodations at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre and Hostel

Visit the Parks Canada website to find out more about cross country skiing at Lake Louise.

And to read more about accommodations at the Lake Louise Hostel, where we'll be spending a weekend this month, check out this story from last winter: Family Guide to the Lake Louise Ski Resort. (Which has a huge section on our stay at the Lake Louise Hostel.)

I also recommend reading Family Cross Country Ski Trips - Our Favourite Destinations Near Calgary

And check out this story as well - Family Cross Country Skiing at Lake Louise.  

Easy family cross country skiing at Lake Louise

3. Access the Higher Cross Country Trails of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park from Highway 40

Here is another option for this month before Highway 40 closes over Highwood Pass. If you make it out to the park before the end of November, you can continue past the normal turn off for the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes (where all of the groomed ski trails in the park are located.)

Continue past the winter gates on Highway 40 for roughly 8 km until you come to a pull out on the right hand side of the highway. This is where you'll put your skis on to access the Pocaterra Ski Trail from higher up (rather than starting at the Pocaterra Hut where there is never snow until December.)

Not bad for November skiing!

Ski along the Pocaterra Ski Trail until you reach the junction with the Whiskeyjack Trail. From here you can continue on the Tyrwhitt Trail and up to the Lookout if you want.

We did this outing last November and skied as far as the Tyrwhitt junction before returning. It was a short ski day (probably 6 km at most) but was perfect for a November trip.

Note the trails will not be groomed or track set. This is natural early season skiing.

Visit the Alberta Parks website for more information on the ski trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

Early season skiing in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Other Trail Options for November Cross Country Skiing:

  • Frozen Thunder at the Canmore Nordic Centre. This trail is approximately 2 km in distance and is groomed/track set now. It is open to the public in the afternoons through the week or all day on weekends. Admission fees are charged.

  • Kananaskis Village Ski Trails. While they won't likely be groomed or track set, it can still be fun to go for a short ski around the Terrace Loop in early November after a good dump of snow.

  • West Bragg Creek Ski Trails.  This is a nice close option, and I've skied here most years in November. Don't expect "amazing" snow or any grooming/track setting if you go too early, but in November it's just good to get out.

  •  The Cascade Valley in Banff. You can always ski up the Cascade Valley in Banff by mid-November. This old fire road requires very little snow to be enjoyed on skis and we almost always make our first trip out in November. The trail starts from the Lake Minnewanka Parking lot.
Early Season skiing in the Cascade Valley, Banff

For trail reports, trip reports, and the latest on where people are skiing, visit Skier Bob's website. It is a phenomenal resource for the Kananaskis and Banff areas.

Early season skiing at West Bragg Creek, Kananaskis

Disclaimer and partnerships

 My son received free riding at the B-Line Park so that I could promote their new business. 

We will also receive accommodations from Hosteling International and from Mount Engadine Lodge this month to assist with future trip writing and reviews. 

Finally, I will receive free skiing at Nakiska Ski Area this winter so that I can promote the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies for another winter, and as an Alberta Parks Ambassador, I will receive free skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre this winter.

As always, all opinions are my own and I have not been paid to promote any of the businesses in this story. 

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