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!

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