Monday, December 31, 2018

Top Ten Adventure Highlights of 2018

I love writing this annual highlights post because it helps me plan for another adventurous year with my family. I get a chance to look back and to make notes for the upcoming year as I reflect on the kinds of trips we enjoyed the most, the activities we spent the most time pursuing, and the places we loved visiting the most.

Another year of adventure in the Canadian Rockies

Below are "some" of the highlights from this past year that I feel represent what made us truly happy in 2018 as a family. And spoiler alert: It comes down to two major activities - mountain biking and skiing.

Downhill skiing was an activity our whole family enjoyed this past year!

Top Ten Adventure Highlights of 2018 

One - Skiing "BIG" Trails as a Family 

Noah kicks my butt at downhill skiing and at mountain biking, but cross-country skiing had always been "my thing" that I enjoyed, and I had to ditch the family if I wanted to get a "good" ski day in.

Boom Lake Ski Tour, January 2018

Last winter however, things started to change, and Noah was suddenly able to ski the big trails with me! I don't know how we went from "skiing cute little family trails" together to a place where we could ski up mountains or go ski touring together, but suddenly overnight, Noah became a solid ski buddy, and we tackled some pretty amazing trails as a family.

Blueberry Hill, February 2018

Special Highlights:

  • Ski Touring to Boom Lake in Banff - My absolute favourite trail on cross-country skis and a solid test of skill as you fly down the narrow luge track on descent. This trail is not groomed or track set (most people snowshoe it) and I still find it hard to believe we can go ski touring as a family now!

  • Skiing up to the Blueberry Hill Lookout in Kananaskis - This one comes with a punch at 16 km return and 375 metres of height gain. Never in a million years did I think I'd be doing it as a family ski trip. Noah loved it though and it's one of his top goals for this coming winter to repeat the trip.

  • Skiing to Skogan Pass in Kananaskis - Blueberry Hill is a walk in the park compared to this one with a return distance of 17 km and a height gain of 600+ metres. We pretty much climbed a mountain (on skis!) and my husband never believed for a second that we'd actually make it to the pass with our son (Sorry dear, but it's true.) Again, Noah loved this one (the ski down was amazing) and it's one of this top goals for the upcoming winter.

  • Ski Touring in Paradise Valley at Lake Louise - This is one of the most beautiful ski tours in the Canadian Rockies, and as long as you don't go past the second or third bridge, there's little to no avalanche danger. My husband was a bit skeptical that doing it as a family was a good idea, but Noah did amazing (and I was thrilled that we got to do another one of my favourite backcountry ski tours all together.)

Two - Wild Mountain Skating Days

I've you've been following me on social media over the past couple of months, you'll know that skating has pretty much consumed our time in the mountains ever since Remembrance Day when we got out on Johnson Lake for the first time this season.

Johnson Lake, November 2018

Since mid-November we've had 9 "wild" skating days on mountain lakes and ponds, and I've pretty much jumped as soon as I heard about each lake coming into condition (trying to get some of the first tracks on each fresh sheet of glass.)

Two Jack Lake, November 2018 (barely frozen, hence the life jacket, but what a glorious sheet of glass!)

One of Noah's top highlights for all of 2018 was our skating day on Cougar Creek in Canmore last January. After realizing that Noah still had one more day of Christmas vacation (after walking to school to find nobody else there,) we headed out to Canmore and had the most glorious day skating down this little creek that we had all to ourselves.

Cougar Creek, January 2018

Read more about our skating adventures here:

Wild Mountain Skating Guide for Banff and Kananaskis 

The most amazing adventure skating across Barrier Lake, December 2018

Three - Glorious Downhill Ski Weekends

We did a LOT of downhill skiing last winter, but three trips really stood out for us as a family:

Panorama Mountain Resort weekend

I will never forget skiing down "Rollercoaster" first thing each morning with its perfect fresh corduroy. It was so fast I felt like I was flying. Day two also gave us first tracks down "View of 1000 Peaks," a steep black run that is amazing when it's freshly groomed. If I could ski these two runs every morning to start my day, I would be a very happy camper.

We also loved staying right on the hill in this incredible alpine village, and we enjoyed our stay so much, we're going back for another weekend this coming winter.

Read about our trip here: Family Guide to Panorama Mountain Resort

First tracks at Panorama Mountain Resort, January 2018

Fernie Alpine Resort weekend

We've skied Fernie many times, but two things really stood out this year: Perfect glorious skiing on the "North Ridge" and on "Bear Ridge," two new runs we'd never discovered before. The North Ridge was definitely the steepest run I've ever skied at Fernie, and was Noah's first "Fernie black."

When it comes down to it, I love any ski resort that has something new and awesome to show me each time I visit, whether it's my 1st visit or my 50th visit.

Glorious skiing at Fernie Alpine Resort, January 2018

Sunshine Village Ski Resort weekend 

We've skied Sunshine many times before, but this was Noah's first visit to the resort, and it was our first time staying ON the hill! Everybody wonders what it's like to actually stay at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge, but we finally got to experience it. And, yes, it was glorious!

Noah also loved the terrain parks at Sunshine and begged us to go back this winter. (Which we've already done once so far over the Christmas holidays.)

Read about our trip here: Sunshine Village Ski Resort and Mountain Lodge Experience

Spring skiing at Sunshine Village was a lot of fun! April 2018

Four - The Day We Skipped School to Ski Nakiska

I pulled Noah from school one Friday last February to experience the glory of mid-week skiing without crowds at our local hill, Nakiska. We had the most magical day skiing fresh corduroy till noon on empty runs with no line ups anywhere. The day lodge was deserted and our favourite black runs had been freshly groomed that morning.

Now we've both been thoroughly spoiled and we'll have to plan a few more of these days this coming winter.

Read the story here:

The day we skipped school to experience mid-week skiing, February 2018

Five - Spring Break at Lake Louise

We spent two nights at the HI Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel on the Icefields Parkway in Banff over Spring Break last March. We had booked the private cabin, and shared it with two other families that we invited to come with us. Extra special was that this was a trip with two of my girlfriends, and their children, good friends of Noah's, and we left the men at home for this one.

Peyto Lake Viewpoint, March 2018

We had an amazing time skiing and hiking to the Peyto Lake Viewpoint at Bow Summit, hiking up the Mosquito Creek Canyon to see gorgeous frozen waterfalls, and visiting Lake Louise to go ice skating and to play in the giant mountains of snow.

Hiking up Mosquito Creek, March 2018

After our two nights at Mosquito Creek, my family moved into the Lake Louise Alpine Centre for a couple more nights and my husband joined us for a couple days of ski touring and nordic skiing as a family around Lake Louise.

Spring Break at Lake Louise, March 2018

Add a day skiing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort and it was a fabulous spring break!!

Read all about our spring break adventure here:

Skiing at Lake Louise, March 2018

Six - Every Single Day Spent Mountain Biking in the East Kootenay Rockies

We planned most of our summer around places we wanted to go mountain biking, and each campsite served as a base camp for trails we wanted to ride.

My boys would both say that Fernie is their favourite place to go mountain biking and Noah will tell you that the new Contra downhill flow trail is his favourite trail across the Canadian Rockies. Meanwhile, I prefer flying down Lazy Lizard and the Montane Trails, and we make Mark ride back up at the end to get the vehicle after each ride. (I pay him back with shuttles to the top of Contra.)

Noah ripping down Contra in Fernie, August 2018

Myself, my heart will forever be in the Columbia Valley, and all of my favourite mountain bike trails are in the Invermere/Fairmont area. I've become spoiled by these beautiful smooth flowy trails, and could happily start every day with a ride on Deja View or Teen Spirit.

Riding my beloved Teen Spirit Trail, October 2018

Read more about the trails we like to ride here:

The Best Family Bike Trails in Fernie, British Columbia

The Best Family Bike Trails in the Columbia Valley, BC

This was how I chose to spend Mother's Day weekend! May 2018

Seven - Our Big Summer Summits

We had two big summits we wanted to tackle as a family this summer. The first was Yamnuska, and the second was Mount Baldy (as a traverse including both the South + Main Summits.) Both are in Kananaskis and required no travel. They did require good stable weather though and we didn't check Baldy off until early September.

Fun scrambling on Mount Yamnuska, June 2018

Mount Yamnuska Summit Day

We tried to reach the summit of Mount Yamnuska when Noah was 6 (he's now 9,) but we hadn't brought enough technical climbing gear with us that time in order to keep him safe. (There's one exposed section with chains and we wanted to be able to protect Noah on this part of the scramble.) This time we went back better prepared with more equipment, a few years more experience, and friends (because everything's better with friends.)

Yamnuska Summit, June 2018

Read about our Mount Yamnuska trip here:

Mount Yamnuska Summit Day, June 2018

Mount Baldy Traverse Double Summit Day 

This was an epic family adventure, and while I hate to use the word "epic" because it's so subjective, there's no other word to describe this particular trip.

Most "sane" people climb Mount Baldy as an out and back journey, going up and down the same trail. It's a moderate scramble at most, and I've done it several times. We wanted to reach Mount Baldy via the South Summit though in a very long ridge walk from Baldy Pass.

Summit of Mount Baldy, September 2018

In doing the trip this way, we avoided the crowds on the main trail, we got to tackle two summits in one outing, and we got to enjoy an amazing ridge walk. We also got to challenge ourselves with some technical climbing below the main summit of Mount Baldy and had to bring a rope with us. Mark belayed both Noah and I on the rope for this section and protected us as we made our way up. 

Without a doubt, this is the most technical family scramble we've done so far. Noah was exhausted by the end, but was a real trooper throughout the whole 7+ hour trip.

Technical climbing below the Mount Baldy Summit, September 2018

Read about our Mount Baldy trip here:

My boys on the Mount Baldy Traverse, September 2018

Eight - Biking the High Rockies Trail

We don't generally do a lot of mountain biking in Kananaskis or Banff, preferring the smoother trails out in the Columbia Valley across the border in British Columbia. The High Rockies Trail changed everything though and I now have a favourite trail to ride close to home.

Biking the High Rockies Trail, July 2018

This brand new trail flows through the Spray Valley between Canmore and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kananaskis, and we rode two sections this summer. The first one had incredible scenery, and I felt like we were riding in the high alpine as we traversed rocky avalanche slopes looking down over Spray Lake.

Biking across avalanche slopes above Spray Lake, July 2018

The second section that we rode allowed us the opportunity to ride across a big suspension bridge and then gave us a very fun, flowy descent down to the Lower Kananaskis Lake, whooping and laughing the whole time.

We plan to ride more sections of this amazing trail in the coming summer.

Read more about our riding on the High Rockies Trail here:

Biking the High Rockies Trail in Kananaskis with Kids 

Biking across the suspension bridge on the High Rockies Trail, July 2018

Nine - Touring around Northern Idaho on our Summer Vacation

We usually take two weeks to travel across British Columbia in August, but this year decided to drop down into Idaho for a few days. The trip had two main activities as a focal point: we wanted to spend a couple days at the Silverwood Amusement Park, and we wanted to bike the Route of the Hiawatha Trail, a historic rail trail.

Silverwood Water Park, Idaho, August 2018

We had a fabulous time at the Silverwood Water Park and it was one of our favourite days out of the entire summer. The amusement park side didn't impress us as much, but we loved the water park. I wouldn't be surprised if we make it down there again this coming summer.

Trestle bridges on the Route of the Hiawatha, August 2018

The Hiawatha Rail Trail was an amazing ride, cruising downhill at a gentle rail grade with a shuttle back up to the top. We especially loved the mile long tunnel that we got to ride through on the way out, and again on the way back (my boys screaming and making zombie sounds the entire time!)

Read more about our adventures in Idaho here:

Road Trip to Bike the Route of the Hiawatha in Northern Idaho 

Tunnels on the Route of the Hiawatha Trail

Ten - Columbia River Overnight Paddle Trip

I love river trips, and the Columbia River is one of the easiest rivers we've paddled. We spent two days on the river with a beautiful night camping on an island along the way. We did the trip with two other families, and the children had a blast playing in the mud and swimming in the river. We also brought fishing rods for the kids which kept them occupied (even though nobody caught anything.)

Kids kayaking down the Columbia River in BC, July 2018

And as always, I wish every backcountry trip could be done barefoot!

I haven't written about this trip yet, but you can read about a previous trip we did here: Paddling and Camping on the Columbia River with Kids 

Beach camping along the Columbia River 

Other Honorable Mentions and Highlights 

1. Discovering that my boys like fishing on a backpacking trip to Ribbon Lake, and Noah catching his first fish in Fernie!

Noah catching his first fish! August 2018

2. Exploring the bike parks and concrete pump tracks around Yellowhead County, Northern Alberta (read more here)

Concrete bike parks in Northern Alberta, July 2018

3. First time skiing in October!! I can now say I've skied as early as October. Earliest ski day ever.

How's this for October skiing?! October, 2018

I hope you enjoyed our highlights and that you'll continue to follow along in 2019.


  1. I love your wild mountain skating days! I want to do more of that in 2019!

    1. Thank you Jody. It is a lot of fun! Love wild skating!

  2. You're so lucky to live in such an incredible part of the world. You've so made me want to take another trip to BC. My eldest agrees with Noah that Fernie is the best place to Mountain Bike in the world - he's planning on living there when he's old enough - it's going to be a long way to visit from the UK, so we may just have to relocate there too!!!! Happy New Year and looking forward to reading all about your adventures in 2019. Karen

    1. Thanks so much Karen. I hope you son has many more trips to Fernie for biking. It is a great place to ride!

  3. Glad to see you had fun at our pump tracks in Yellowhead County!
    We'd love to have you back to check out the other stuff to do here that we think you'd love. A new bike park in Willmore Park in Edson built by Jay Hoots to compliment Hinton's bike park and trails. And you can camp right at the Wilmore campground when you're visiting. I think you would love exploring the historic Coal Branch area that includes Cadomin, the Cardinal Divide, and Mountain Park Cemetery, the highest cemetery in Canada. There's also the Old Entrance teepees near Brule on the Athabasca river and right next to William A. Switzer Provincial Park. Plus lot cross country skiing there too!

    1. Those bike parks were awesome. Can't wait to return. And Wilmore Park is definitely on the list already. I heard about the new park being built. I believe you can also float the river there. We need to explore this area more. We love Switzer.