Friday, December 27, 2019

Top Ten Family Adventure Highlights of 2019

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.

Climbing the "Onion" from Bow Hut was a big highlight for 2019!

Below are "some" of the highlights from this past year that I feel represent moments and trips that made us truly happy in 2019 as a family. They are organized chronologically starting with our favourite trip in January and ending with our most recent highlight.

Top Ten Family Adventure Highlights of 2019 

One - Castle Mountain Resort Ski Weekend (January)

My husband and I skied Castle years ago! (as in 10+ years ago, pre-kid.) I remembered it being a super challenging hill and we only went once (I clearly wasn't a fan.)

Fast forward to 2019 and we ventured south to Pincher Creek to try Castle again. The experience was incredible and on the drive home we talked about how we should move further south so we could make Castle our primary family ski hill.

A ski hill that inspires you to consider moving, just to be closer to the resort, is a hill that you know you'll visit again many times! 

Noah skiing his first double black chute at Castle Mountain Resort 

The trip was particularly momentous for us because Noah skied his first double black run ever, and what a run it was! He skied a chute called "Lonestar," an epic run with the longest continuous fall line descent in Canada. My husband was ecstatic because he has now reached that stage where he gets to ski the runs he wants to ski - with his son! He doesn't have to take off into the extreme terrain on his own, leaving us on the groomers way down below (there's just me left behind, and it suits me just fine!)

And me, who had been so nervous to try skiing Castle again, absolutely loved it!! I could have skied the gorgeous traverse off the summit all day long. (On the second day I think I actually did!)

Read more about our weekend at Castle Mountain Resort below and consider planning your own trip to this great ski hill.

I could have skied this gorgeous traverse off the summit all day at Castle!

Two - Panorama Mountain Resort Ski Weekend (February)

Skiing could never get more perfect than our Sunday run down "View of a Thousand Peaks" and "Zehnder," summit to base on perfect corduroy. We saw nobody else the entire time and skied 5+ km of perfect steep corduroy with a vertical drop of 1300 meters.

This was our second visit to Panorama and it's become one of our fav. ski resorts. I love that I can ski steep groomed black runs (rare at many resorts,) Noah loves finding playful natural runs with bumps and jumps (and loves the terrain park,) and my husband Mark enjoys sneaking off into the Taynton Bowl at least a couple times each trip to ski the expert terrain. Hopefully he'll get Noah into Taynton with him this coming winter.

This kid loves terrain parks!

Someday we'll move to the Columbia Valley, buy seasons passes, and spend every weekend here in paradise. For now, we continue to commute from Calgary to Invermere, but we decided to spend more days at Panorama this coming season rather than only visiting for one weekend. 

Read more about our trip to Panorama Mountain Resort last year below and consider planning your own ski getaway here.

And check out my newest Panorama story here: Magic Carpet to Monster at Panorama Mountain Resort

Panorama Mountain Resort is my favourite ski hill 

Three - Annual Vacation to Mexico (April) 

We've been going to Mexico for a week every winter since Noah was just a baby. We generally stay somewhere new each time, but last year we really raised the bar and stayed at one of the top resorts in the Mayan Riviera. I'm not actually sure if any other resort will ever compare so returning is going to be pretty challenging!

We stayed at the Hotel Xcaret Mexico, and I haven't written a story about our trip yet, so you'll have to visit their website to take a look around. What stands out with this resort is that everything is included. (Flights, food, drinks, accommodations, AND entertainment!) All tours and activities associated with the Xcaret group of parks were included.

Can't wait till we return to Mexico this coming winter again!

We went ziplining every single day, we visited the Xenses Park twice, we visited the X-Plor Park several times, and we visited the main Xcaret Park many times during our stay. We also did the Xenotes tour where we got to visit several cenotes on our day trip with cliff jumping, ziplines, rappelling, waterslides, and kayaking. 

If you have the money to splurge on a vacation like this, I highly recommend this resort. For us, it was a "once in a lifetime" kind of thing and it will likely be a while before we save up the money for a return trip.

We went ziplining every single day on our Mexican Vacation 

Four - Spending most of Spring in the Columbia Valley (April - June)

Between the end of March and the middle of June we traveled out to the Columbia Valley (the area from Radium Hot Springs to Fairmont Hot Springs) 5 times. That's a lot of weekend driving to British Columbia and I'm going to have to consider changing the name of this blog to "Family Adventures in the Columbia Valley."

We love the Columbia Valley so much we actually moved our trailer to storage out there and we'll only be camping in BC or in the Northern US this coming year. 

Backcountry yurt camping at Radius Retreat in Radium Hot Springs, BC

Highlights included:

(If you want to read more about each of the highlights above, just click on the links to read the stories I wrote.)

We LOVE mountain biking in the Columbia Valley 

Five - Bow Hut Backpacking Trip (July)

This was the trip that almost didn't happen until nearly the day before. The weather looked absolutely craptacular, we lost our friends that were supposed to come with us due to the horrible forecast, and we seriously contemplated pulling out ourselves. 

In the end, we decided to commit to the trip, for one night, because it would be a "new hut" for Noah, and even if it rained the whole time, we figured at least he'd get to visit a new backcountry hut. That in and of itself would be a cool experience.

Noah with the Bow Hut below him 

We got wet climbing up to the hut, but then the sun came out and we had a gorgeous hike up to the top of the Onion, a nearby summit. Best of all was running down the glacier from the top of the Onion, screaming and having the time of our lives. We found a cool ice cave and we had a great adventure! It was the perfect intro-mountaineering trip for a family.

We liked the trip so much we've planned another trip to the same hut this coming summer and hopefully we'll climb something a little bit bigger with more glacier travel. 

Read more about our trip this past summer in my story below.

Running down the glacier from the top of the Onion near Bow Hut

Six - Bow River Overnight Paddling Trip (July) 

We try to complete an overnight river trip every summer but it's become hard to find a new river that's close to Calgary for just a weekend, that's not too challenging, and that has good camping along the edge of the river. Good weather is also important and I don't want any more trips where tornadoes are tracking us down the river! (yes, that happened.)

This year we decided to try a new section of the Bow River that we'd never paddled before south of Calgary. We launched in Fish Creek Park and we took out at Carseland Weir further south. We found another family to join us, and it ended up being a wild river trip that was a lot of fun over two days.

Fishing on the Bow River from our campsite en route to Carseland Weir south of Calgary

The river was perhaps a bit faster than we had anticipated, and the rapids had me on my knees at times as I was on a stand up paddleboard, but it was a lot of fun and we plan to repeat the trip again next July. The boys did quite well in our tandem kayak and we continue to love this giant vessel for its ability to carry all of our gear quite comfortably.

Now we're just looking to recruit more friends willing to join us. Anybody?

And I don't have a story written on this trip yet, but it's on the list! (If I ever find time.) In the meantime, if you have questions, let me know.

Finding a new river is always exciting and I love any backcountry trip that I can do barefoot!

Seven - Summer Traveling across BC, Northern Montana, and Northern Idaho (July and August)

We love our summer road trips but it always feels like we only get one summer vacation and we have to wait so long for it to happen (We usually leave for two weeks at the beginning of August.)

This year we decided to travel more, but for shorter periods of time so we could go away more often.

Highlights included: 

  • Visiting the Whitefish Bike Retreat and mountain biking in Whitefish, Montana over the July long weekend. We also had fun stand up paddling on the Whitefish River (and I got Mark into the sport this year too! Now to get Noah on board.

  • Our week in the Okanagan (jumping off every bridge, dock, or platform we could find, paddling and floating the channel in Penticton, swimming in the warm lakes, biking on the Kettle Valley Railway, and lots of ice-cream from Tickleberry's.)

  • Camping at Snowberry in Farragut State Park, Northern Idaho, honestly one of the best campgrounds we've ever found, and going to Silverwood (a super fun amusement park with the best water park!)

  • Mountain biking in Fernie (I could have ridden the Lazy Lizard every day down from Island Lake Lodge and the boys had a blast downhill biking at Fernie Alpine Resort.)

(If you want to read more about each of the highlights above, just click on the links to read stories I've written. For the Idaho trip, there are links in case you're interested in where we visited, but I haven't written a story yet.)

My favourite photo that captures everything awesome about summer vacations!

Eight - Jasper Mountain Biking Weekend (September)

We love our mountain biking and simply adore Jasper (we even got married here.) Combine the two and you have a winning weekend. We stayed at the new HI Jasper Hostel and spent two days biking as many trails around town as we could including a couple new ones like the classic Moberlander. 

We've also been returning to Jasper every year since Noah was a baby when we took a simple photo on top of Old Fort Point. We returned the next year and decided it would be funny to take the same photo. We returned a third time, and of course had to take the same photo, repeat until now when Noah is 10 and you have the image below.

The Jasper Annual Photo 

Read more about the new hostel we stayed at and check out our fav. bike trails around Jasper in my stories below.

Noah loves mountain biking in Jasper on the Water Tower Trail 

Nine - Wild Skating on Glass (October and November)

I couldn't write a highlights story without at least one mention of wild mountain skating. This year we had a few days of perfect skating on lakes with ice as clear and smooth as glass. I enjoyed two days on Gap Lake in the Bow Valley, getting out on Halloween for my earliest wild skating day ever. I took Noah back a couple of days later and he loved the smooth ice.

Halloween skating on Gap Lake in the Bow Valley

Noah and I also skated the Third Vermilion Lake in Banff, new for us this year, and we all skated Goat Pond in Kananaskis as a family, also new for this year.

We had a fairly short window this year, ending with a family trip to the Back Swamp in Banff mid November. Everything is now snow covered and so we'll be skating on official cleared rinks and lakes for the rest of the season.

Read more about our love of wild skating below.

Skating on glass on Goat Pond in November 

Ten - Rogers Pass Backcountry Hut Trip (November)

We have enjoyed a few November trips to the Wheeler Hut at Rogers Pass now, and it's always fun finding good snow so early in the season. We drive out to Golden, BC, and then continue for another hour to Rogers Pass. From there, it's a short 45 minute ski or hike into the backcountry hut which we share with several other families every year.

Highlights always include light ski touring up the Asulkan Valley to a beautiful snowy bridge, snowshoeing around the area and playing in some old hotel ruins, and building a wild luge track. (We've started bringing helmets for this!)

I haven't written a story about this year's trip yet, but you can read about last year's trip below:

Annual Wheeler Hut Backcountry Trip at Rogers Pass 

Other Highlights 

Chasing frozen waterfalls on the Icefields Parkway 

We wish you all the happiest of new years in 2020 and hope you'll continue to follow our adventures in the coming year. 

If you don't feel like you get enough updates on our adventures, make sure you're following me on Instagram and on following me on Facebook. I post several times every week.

You can also sign up for email notifications when I've written a new story. You'll see the "follow by email" box if you scroll down and look on the right hand side of my blog. 

Happy New Year.

Happy New Year from our Family to yours!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Magic Carpet to Monster at Panorama Mountain Resort!

We've been skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort for a few years now, and the biggest thing that continues to impress me is how easy it is to progress as a skier or snowboarder at this resort. Families can start on the magic carpets and the beginner platter lift, work up to four other beginner-friendly chair lifts, and then keep moving up the mountain towards the summit (where there's enough terrain to keep the whole family challenged for a lifetime of skiing or riding.)

From the Platter to the Monster! Panorama Mountain Resort will get you there

Everything you Need to Know about Panorama Mountain Resort 

Panorama Mountain Resort is located 20 minutes outside the Community of Invermere in the Columbia Valley. From Calgary, it is approximately a 3.5 hour drive across the border into British Columbia. We've found that we can easily make it to the resort Friday night for a quick ski weekend, but that it's definitely more fun to make a long weekend of it.

Panorama has a vertical drop of 1300 metres, top to bottom (4265 feet,) and the longest run is a full 6.5 km in length!

Ski 6.5 kilometres from top to bottom at Panorama Mountain Resort

Enhance your stay with overnight accommodations in the village and experience why ski in/ski out vacations are the absolute BEST! Panorama is unique for ski resorts in the Canadian Rockies in that it has its own alpine village, complete with accommodations, restaurants, apr├Ęs ski activities and nightlife.

Stay at the resort and you won't need a car the entire duration of your visit. A small gondola connects the Lower and Upper Village (with free service through the day and evening) and there is no shortage of restaurants spread out around the resort. You'll even find a grocery store (with alcohol for purchase) and a take-out pizza restaurant in the Lower Village.

Stay in one of the properties on the hill and you'll also receive access to Canada's largest slopeside  hot pools! The pools are located in the Panorama Springs Lodge and are walking distance from everywhere in the Lower or Upper village with the use of the free gondola.

Stay at Panorama and enjoy a soak in Canada's largest slopeside hot pools!

Panorama for Beginners 

Panorama is the ultimate hill for progression with discounted pricing available for the beginner lifts. A Discovery Zone lift ticket gives you access to the Discovery Quad, Silver Platter, Red Carpet, and Little Ripper Carpet.

Graduate from the Discovery Quad, and you'll find easy groomed green runs off the Mile 1 Express, the Toby Chair (which also has an amazing terrain park,) and the Sunbird Chair.

Panorama has 2 magic carpets and a platter for beginners to learn on 

Highlights for beginners:

  • Magic Carpets: There are two magic carpets for progression of skills when first introducing the kids to basic ski or boarding techniques.

  • The Silver Platter: From the magic carpets, move up to the Silver Platter and the beautiful beginner run off of it. It's the perfect intermediate step from bunny hill to actual green runs.

    And secret Pano tip: There's a day use parking lot at the base of the platter run (and it doesn't show up on maps, so it's a local secret.)

  • The Discovery Quad: From the Silver Platter, move on to the Discovery Quad with its short green runs and the awesome "Discovery Zone," with a special tree run for the kids - that all children will love, no matter how experienced they are.

  • The Toby Double Chair: From the Discovery Quad, I recommend trying out the Toby Double Chair where there are a couple of short green and blue runs. Alternately, move up to the Mile 1 Express Quad and follow the easiest way down.

    And another secret Pano tip: There's a great day use parking lot at the bottom of the Toby Chair. When we've visited in the past, we always thought we had to park down below in the Lower Village (riding the village gondola up to the base area.)

  • The Mile 1 Express Quad: After getting comfortable on the beginner terrain off the Mile 1 Express Quad, skiers can try "Out Rider" off of the Sunbird Chair (but know, it is a bit steeper than your average green run, and more of an intro-blue run.) Higher up the mountain, I can't recommend anything for true beginners.

And also to note, Panorama offers a great Wee Wascals child care program for families of little ones who might not want to ski the whole day. They accept babies as well as young as 18 months! - which is a great option for families wanting to spend time skiing with older kids, and not sure what to do with the youngest family member.

Children will love skiing through the Discovery Zone off the Discovery Quad 

Panorama for Intermediate Skiers and Snowboarders

I consider myself to be a strong intermediate skier because I prefer to ski groomed terrain (be it blue or black.) Panorama is the ideal resort for those who love flowy cruisers, who want a good assortment of groomed runs, and who enjoy steep black runs that have also been groomed.

The terrain at Panorama can be broken down into 20% beginner, 55% intermediate/advanced, and 25% expert, so you can see that it's an intermediate skier or boarder's paradise.

Every day should start with a Rollercoaster Ride (the name of this gorgeous groomed run at Panorama)

Highlights for intermediate skiers or snowboarders:

  • The Secret Forest: Children who can easily ski off the mile 1 express chair will love a trip into the Secret Forest to look for the hidden tree house. You can either ski down the top of "Fritz's," a groomed black run, or you ski down the top of "Old Timer,"a groomed blue run that's sometimes closed for racing.

  • Fun Cruising off the Champagne Express Chair: We start every day on "Rollercoaster," a fast cruisy blue run off the Champagne Express chair that's always immaculately groomed to perfection and one of my personal favourite runs on the hill.

  • Easy Skiing down from the Summit: After warming up on rollercoaster, we move up to the Summit Quad as soon as it opens for the day at 9:30. We love skiing "View of a Thousand Peaks," a fast steep black run that's often groomed, but more intermediate skiers can take "Get Me Down," an easy groomed blue traverse that winds its way down to the top of the Champagne Express chair, so you can run down Rollercoaster again.

The Sun Bowl has a delightful mix of groomed and natural blue runs for intermediate skeirs 

  • The Magical Sun Bowl: Intermediate skiers or riders will love playing in the Sun Bowl accessed from the top of the Champagne Express chair, "Upper Canadian Way," a blue traverse, and then a short section of "Schober's Dream," a steep groomed black run. (alternately, there is a side loop on "Lower Canadian Way" for those who need an easier way to access the sun bowl gate.

    Once in the Sun Bowl, everything is rated "blue," and there's a nice mix of groomed and natural terrain for all abilities. we go in  as a family and everybody picks their own way through the bowl, usually meeting at the bottom of the Sunbird Chair.

    Once you get to the bottom of the Sunbird Chair, ride back up, and either play around on the short runs off this chair or make your way back to the bottom of the Mile 1 Express chair.

  • Escape all Crowds in Founder's Ridge: The Founder's ridge area is a bit of a secret and certainly not one of the most popular spots on the hill. I love skiing around this quiet area though and I usually enjoy at least one run down "Madison's Mile," a long blue traverse that might fool you into thinking your're cross-country skiing (something I enjoy, so it works for me.) If you want more "downhill" momentum, try any of the other runs in this area that have been groomed. "Zehnder Way" is a personal fav. of mine on my way down from the summit off "View of a Thousand Peaks."
Children will love searching for the tree house in the Secret Forest 

Panorama for Advanced Skiers and Snowboarders 

We love skiing down "View of a Thousand Peaks" as soon as the Summit Quad opens for the day, and I'm always amazed at how fast one can ski down a steep black run when it's been freshly groomed on a weekend.

On one visit to Panorama last winter, we connected View of a Thousand Peaks off the summit to "Zehnder Way" in the Founder's Ridge area, another steep black run that had been freshly groomed, and we marveled at the lack of lift lines (we rode three chairs to access the summit and never waited in a line - on a weekend!) We also expressed complete shock (and delight) that we didn't see a single other skier the entire time we skied down from the summit until we reached the top of the Discovery Quad at the bottom. We enjoyed 5.5 km of steep groomed black skiing on that one descent alone, no line ups, and no other skiers in sight.

Fresh corduroy for a fun descent of View of a Thousand Peaks 

Progression tips for advanced skiers and snowboarders:

1. Start with the groomed blacks and build your confidence for steep terrain here

I read the grooming report with my morning coffee and plan out my morning so that I hit as many of the groomed black runs as possible first thing in the day when they are pristine!

Personal favourites include: "Fritz's" or "Whiskey Jack" (Mile 1 or Sunbird,) "Downhill" (Champagne Express,) "View of a Thousand Peaks" (Summit,) "Stumbock's" to "Taynton trail" (Summit,) "Schober's Dream" (Summit,) "Zehnder Way" (Founder's Ridge.)

Enjoying a steep fast descent down View of a Thousand Peaks off the Summit 

2. Advance to natural (ungroomed) terrain

Start with ungroomed blue terrain in the Sun Bowl and them move up to the ungroomed black terrain as you feel comfortable.

My son's personal favourite is "Sunbird" which goes right under the Sunbird chair and has some fun bumps and jumps.

"Sunbird" is a fun run with lots of bumps under the Sunbird chair 

 You'll find options off every chair, progressing with difficulty as you move up the mountain. Start with ungroomed runs off the Champagne Express chair ("Tacky" is a fun one,) and then progress to the summit where you can see how you do on "Roy's Run," a steep pitch that leads you to "Schober's Dream."

The black runs off "Get me Down" from the Summit are great short ones to practice on with low commitment. If you find yourself in over your head, it won't take long before you're back on the traverse again lower down.

Panorama has lots of options if you like your runs ungroomed and playful!

Panorama for Park Fans 

My son loves terrain parks and is usually quick to approve of a ski hill if it has a good park. The Toby Terrain Park is one of the best we've found across the Rockies and we love that it has its own dedicated chairlift, a nice little short one, so you can spend more time playing in the park (and less time riding on the lift.)

There's also a more advanced park off the Mile 1 Express Chair where my son was given very clear instructions to "roll everything!!"

And for parents who just want to "watch" the kids play on the jumps and features, you can ski alongside them by just sticking to the edges of the run.

Playing in the Toby Terrain Park at Panorama 

Panorama for Expert Skiers and Snowboarders 

I will never fall under this category but my husband enjoys the expert terrain at Panorama and my son will be venturing into the Taynton Bowl this year too.

25% of the terrain at Panorama is considered "expert"as soon as you enter the Taynton Bowl off the Summit Quad. The Taynton Bowl offers big steep lines in former heli-ski terrain through glades and bowls. 

The Taynton Bowl is ideal for those who don't have the budget for a heli-skiing day but want the same epic experience, and have the skills to ski or ride safely in this terrain without a guide. 

Note you do not have to have avalanche gear with you and this area is tested daily for safe conditions. In times of high avalanche risk the taynton bowl may be closed. Check the sign beside the Taynton Bowl gate before you enter to read everything you'll need to know for your trip into this terrain. 

The gate to the Taynton Bowl where the expert ski terrain begins 

Safety and Progression tips for working up to the Taynton Bowl:

  • Always ski with a buddy. A Rescue may take a while if you hurt yourself while you wait for a patroller to find you. If you absolutely have to ski or ride alone, carry a whistle and set up a check-in system with family or friends.

  • Ski with a more experienced partner if you're new to expert terrain. Ideally, ski with somebody who knows the Taynton Bowl well and can introduce you to the best lines for the day's conditions. You'll be in "backcountry type terrain" and you'll need to be able to look ahead as you descend to pick the best path down your chosen run.

  • Join a free mountain tour with Panorama's snow hosts. Join one of the advanced groups for a half-day outing on the hill. You might even make some new friends to ski with in the afternoon. 

  • Start with a run down "Heli High." This is the classic, recommended first run that everybody should try in the Taynton Bowl before progressing further along the ridge. Take "Heli High" into "Cauldron," finishing on the Taynton Trail.

Once you've successfully skied down "Heli High" and you've hiked further along the ridge to try a couple of other runs through the Taynton Bowl, consider moving on to the "Monster."

A look at what to expect once you drop into the Taynton Bowl at Panorama 

Skiing the Monster Terrain in the Eastern side of the Taynton Bowl 

The Monster terrain features seven double-black diamond lines (upgraded from four last year) and you'll be in your happy place if you like long steep open faces and glades.

The Eastern side of the Taynton Bowl is accessed via a snowcat that you can choose to ride if you'd like to avoid the final climb from "Never Never Land' in the Taynton Bowl up to the top of the Goldie Plateau.

To reach the pick up point for the snowcat, Monster X, first ski through the gate to the Taynton Bowl from the top of the Summit Quad, and then ski along Outback Ridge for approximately 20-30 minutes (where a few sections have to be walked, especially if you're on a snowboard.) 

It will take you at least 40-50 minutes to get from the bottom of the resort after riding up three chairlifts and then making your way across the ridge to the Monster X meeting spot. From here it is a 10 minute ride to the drop off point further east along the Taynton Bowl. 

Monster X - Your "shuttle service" to the top of the Goldie Plateau 

More details on the snowcat and the monster terrain:

  • There is room for a dozen passengers on Monster X.

  • This is not a guided cat-skiing experience! From the website: "think of Monster X like a really cool shuttle service to some awesome, big mountain terrain that you'll want to lap again and again, and Monster X makes that way easier."

  • You are welcome to hike the final climb to the Monster terrain if you don't want to pay for the snowcat.

  • The minimum age for a Monster X ticket is 6 years. (for obvious reasons.)

  • Tickets are needed to ride Monster X and must be purchased in advance from Guest Services in Ski Tip Lodge. You have the option of a single ride, a four pack of single rides, or a season pass. (read more on pricing here.)

  • Monster X operates Thursday, Saturdays and Sundays between 10 am - 3:30 pm January to March, with additional special dates throughout the season starting in December. (see all special holiday dates here.)

Outback Ridge which you must ski or walk to reach the Monster X meeting spot 

Planning a trip to Panorama? I recommend reading some of the other stories below where I've written more about our past trips, accommodations and dining on the hill, along with other activities you can enjoy as a family at Panorama Mountain Resort (including cross-country skiing, fat biking, or hiking.)

The scenery is always incredible at Panorama!

Additional Recommended Reading

Find it ALL at Panorama Mountain Resort

Family Guide to Panorama Mountain Resort 

Panorama Mountain Resort - (much more than downhill skiing)

Winter Guide to the Columbia Valley (Golden, Radium Hot Springs, Invermere, and beyond!)

Disclaimer: We've had a few hosted trips to Panorama Mountain Resorts over the past few years, and all photos/content comes from those trips. This story is not sponsored and all words are my own.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Secret to "Tourist-free" Travel (November in Radium Hot Springs, BC)

Travel enough and you'll find that November is a GREAT time to travel! This "shoulder season" month is generally quiet across Canada as we see a transition from summer sports to winter ones, and most people take a break leading up to the Christmas holiday season.

Discover "tourist-free" travel this November 

Radium Hot Springs in November

We spent a weekend this November in Radium Hot Springs, across the border in British Columbia. So far this year, we've been out to the Columbia Valley 12 times, in pretty much every season - and we've found something fun and unique to do as a family on each one of these trips.

And while we generally spend a lot of time around the Radium Hot Springs area, this was our first time visiting in November. - and I admit I had no idea what one would do this time of year between seasons.

As it turned out for us, we escaped a major cold front blowing through Calgary, we avoided a big snow storm, and we enjoyed warm autumn weather (while Alberta was seeing some of the coldest temperatures on the planet for November!)

While Albertans were shivering in front of their fireplaces all weekend and shoveling out their driveways, we were soaking in natural hot spring pools and taking walks around the Village of Radium Hot Springs on dry trails.

Travel to the Columbia Valley in November if you want the Lussier Hot Springs to yourself!

Our "Home" for the Weekend in Radium Hot Springs 

We were offered the opportunity to spend the weekend at Bighorn Meadows Resort in Radium Hot Springs, located on the Springs Golf Course right in town. We've spent many weekends in Radium, but this was our first time staying at this resort, and it was definitely a property we'd choose to stay at in the future.

Highlights of a stay at Bighorn Meadows Resort: 

Individual 1, 2 and 3-Bedroom condo-style suites or townhomes with options to fit every budget. We had a two bedroom suite and it was more than comfortable enough for our small family (allowing my son to have his own room.)

We appreciated the separate bedrooms and living area so that we could go to bed at different times (rather than everybody going to bed at 8pm when my son wants the lights turned out.)

Bighorn Meadows Resort, Radium Hot Springs

Well equipped kitchens in all suites and townhomes. We like having our own kitchen when we travel so we can save money on eating out. We often go out for one dinner as a treat, but we always eat breakfast in our suite, sometimes pack lunches to go, and often pick up frozen pizzas or something simple for our first dinner after arriving.

Luxurious bathrooms. My son walked into the bathroom outside his room and loudly exclaimed: "This is MY bathroom?? Look at my giant shower!!!"

A look inside our 2-bedroom suite at Bighorn Meadows Resort

A swimming pool (in summer) and two hot tubs (year round) for guest use. While the hot springs in town are great, we typically only pay to use them once/stay, so it's always nice when we have a pool or hot tubs at our condo that we can use. Having two hot tubs was also fabulous because they tend to get busy at night, but we were still able to find plenty of space.

Beautiful grounds for walking around. Because we stayed in November, the golf course was closed and we could walk around the fairways looking for sheep and checking out the views over the Columbia River.

We've visited Radium Hot Springs so many times over the years, and this was our first time seeing the Columbia River from this vantage point. It just might have been the prettiest walk we've done in the Radium area in fact!

Enjoying an afternoon walk around the Springs Golf Course from the Bighorn Meadows Resort

Walk everywhere around Radium from the resort. I like walking around Radium Hot Springs in the evenings when it's super quiet. Come November you don't even have to wait till evening. We walked the streets of town in mid-afternoon, walking right down the middle of the quiet streets, marveling at all the wildlife around us. There were groups of deer and sheep grazing on lawns everywhere, and it was like walking around our own private little village shared with the animals.

From the resort you can easily walk to the main playground in town, walk over to main street for coffee, go out for dinner without driving, or walk over to Sinclair Creek for a nice stroll. The Bighorn Meadows Resort is at the heart of the village.

Stay for New Years and you'll get to see the fireworks that are launched right from the Springs Golf Course!

We look forward to staying here in "biking season" as well because we'd be able to bike right from our condo over to Sinclair Creek where the town bike park is located. We could also bike the Old Coach Trail from Dry Gulch back to Radium and just head straight to our resort at the end of our ride.

Stay at Bighorn Meadows Resort and walk all around the Village of Radium Hot Springs 

Only 3 hours from Calgary. Radium Hot Springs is only a 3-hour drive from Calgary. Stay at the Bighorn Meadows Resort and then enjoy day trips around the Columbia Valley without adding the extra distance Friday night after work.

You can stay in Radium, but day trip to Invermere, Panorama, Fairmont Hot Springs, or even Golden. Possibilities are endless for a ski weekend this winter!!

We spent the day visiting different hot springs across the Columbia Valley 

Recommended Reading for Planning your Trip 

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

Active Family Guide to Radium Hot Springs, BC 

The Best Family Bike Trails in the Columbia Valley

Winter Guide to the Columbia Valley (Golden, Radium Hot Springs, Invermere - and beyond!) 

Active Family Guide to Winter in Radium Hot Springs

Big Thanks to Bighorn Meadows Resort for hosting our stay this month. We'll definitely return.

And as always, all opinions are my own.