Friday, March 27, 2020

Spring Survival Guide for Outside Fun during Covid-19

Treat this guide as a "choose your own adventure" resource. Want to stay home and go no further than your backyard? I've got options for that. Want to practice social distancing on local trails around the city? I've got those options too.

Spring Survival Guide for Outside Fun during Covid-19 

I've focused on the area around Calgary since that's the home base for our family. (You'll find many ideas for your family regardless of where you live though.)

1. Backyard Fun for Safe Self Isolating

Scroll through the ideas below and follow the links for more resources from other blogs and websites. Some links also go to recommended books on Amazon.

Create a backyard you actually want to play in! 

  • Build a sandbox

  • Build a mud kitchen
  • Buy a bird book and build a birdhouse or a bird feeder  (and you can use the bird book for walks around the neighborhood too.)

  • Make a magical Fairy Garden, Dinosaur World or Troll Land - Born to be Adventurous

  • Use that hot tub if you're lucky enough to have one (or fill a wading pool with warm water on a sunny day and pretend you're at the beach)

  • Get out the lawn chairs, the loungers, the hammock if you have trees to hang one, and take your reading time outside. I have one friend who's made it a goal to enjoy her morning coffee outside every day. - And any new furniture you buy now can be used for camping this summer.

  • Create a backyard ninja obstacle course with pieces of wood, logs, hula hoops, buckets or barrels, and any other random items you have at home

  • Buy a trampoline, a climbing dome or something else you'll continue to use all summer long

  • Put up a badminton net if you have a large backyard or get out the soccer ball and make goals using pylons, buckets, or anything you can find around the house (this would work well for younger kids who don't need a big field for soccer)

  • Buy a basketball hoop for your driveway or a hockey net and basic equipment for ball hockey

  • Try some backyard gardening projects with the kids

  • Buy some new backyard toys or games. Example: Learn to play Spike ball or Learn to play Ladder Ball Toss. - and bonus, you can take both games with you when you go camping this summer. 

And I know that many of these ideas will involve shopping but fortunately we live in an age where most things can be ordered online. I also encourage you to choose purchases that will have a shelf life beyond the Corona virus. Choose items you can take camping with you this summer and that will provide hours of outside fun all summer long.

Rainy day fun in our backyard 

Recommended Reading:

100+ Ideas for Backyard Play and Outdoor Activities - Bring the Kids

130+ FREE Outdoor Learning Activities For Kids Unexpectedly Stuck at Home - Outdoor Families  Magazine

- and the guide above has tons of STEM and science activities for the backyard

Keeping busy with nature activities (bucket list & calendar) - Take them Outside

School’s Out(side) - Tales of a Mountain Mama

100+ Ideas for Outdoor Family Fun - Tales of a Mountain Mama

Easy Sidewalk Chalk Obstacle Course - Tales of a Mountain Mama

How Will Your Garden Grow? - AK on the Go

Spring Activity Calendar and free printable- Born to be Adventurous

Bored kids? Create an Activity Jar with these 75 Activities (+Free Printable ) - Born to be Adventurous

School’s cancelled—what now? Here are 200+ activities you can do with kids at home - Active for Life

- and the story above is a goldmine filled with links to other guides and resources

30-Day Rewilding Challenge Activity Calendar – FREE Printable! - Outdoor Families Magazine

We built a large sandbox in our backyard when my son was younger. He still plays in it.

2. Try Backyard Camping

I know many of us are worried about our summer camping plans and have had spring trips already cancelled. In the meantime, choose a warm night and set the tent up in the backyard. You could even have a "virtual camping trip" with friends and chat online from inside your tent.

There are great tips in this guide: Camping at Home - Take Them Outside

I also recommend this guide: Camping at Home - 30+ Backyard and Indoor Camping Activities, Games, and Recipes - Little Family Adventure

Backyard camping is always allowed 

3. Get Outside in your Neighborhood (no driving required)

This is a great one for those who are not self-isolating and are feeling healthy, but want some fresh air beyond the backyard.

Remember that you still need to practice physical distancing which can be challenging on neighborhood pathways on a warm sunny day.

We could play in our neighborhood ravine for hours!

Try these suggestions for neighborhood spring fun:

  • Learn to geocache and look for caches hidden around your neighborhood (I use the Ground Speak geocaching app on my phone and paid for a premium subscription - though you can use the free version as well.)

    Read my newest guide here: Spring Geocaching Challenge (Join us in the FUN!)

  • Get out the wheels! Get out the scooters, the inline skates, the bikes or the skateboards. Maybe invest in a new toy. And while we're a ways off from some of these toys in Calgary, my son has had success outside with his scooter already.

    And, you can always try building ramps or jumps in your driveway for the kids' bikes or skateboards.
We have a great pathway around my neighborhood and we've getting out for daily walks 

  • Get out the sports equipment and head to your local playground or field to play baseball, soccer, or basketball as a family. You can even practice some basic volleyball skills without a net.

  • Go on a puddle jumping adventure (How wet can you get? Adults included.)

  • Explore natural areas in your community. We have a ravine in our neighborhood that's essentially a wild natural playground. There are trees to climb, bridges to explore, there's a creek to play in, and there are plenty of obstacles to challenge children.

    Read this story for more inspiration: Playing in Nature Protects Our Children During a Pandemic - Backwoods Mama

We're lucky enough to have this in our neighborhood 
Get outside in your neighborhood and go for a scavenger hunt 

4. Explore Parks and Natural Areas in a Neighboring Community (driving required) 

If everybody's healthy and you're not being asked to self-isolate, this is another great way to get outside close to home.

Drive to a natural area  in a neighboring community. Maybe explore a park you've never visited before. (Note you are still staying inside your city.)

Check out some of my personal favourites in Calgary here: Calgary Urban Hikes 

There are MANY cool things to discover on Nose Hill in Calgary 

And with any hike at this time, please practice physical distancing and have a backup plan if the parking lot for your chosen park appears to be crowded.

I also recommend staying away from parks with playgrounds since that will only upset some kids who may not understand why they are closed.

Please remember too that some parks won't have bathrooms open so be prepared for emergencies and pack everything out with you!

Finally, you'll find much more solitude if you grab your hiking boots and get off the paved pathways!!

Recommended reading: Calgary's Best Walks 35 Brand New Urban Jaunts And Nature Strolls

We love exploring the Weaselhead in South Calgary 

Fun Activities to enjoy in Calgary's Parks and Natural Areas:

  • Geocaching

  • Disc Golf

  • Scavenger hunts

  • Bird walks

  • Bike rides (bring the scooters or inline skates if there's a paved pathway)

Geocaching in Bowmont Park, NW Calgary

Nature Walk Printables - Backwoods Mama

There's lots of solitude to be found on Nose Hill 
Calgary has several great disc golf courses 


5. Explore Closed Campgrounds near Home 

You'll meet very few people if you go hiking around a closed campground near home.

Even if you cross paths with another family, there's a LOT of space in a campground. I'm pretty sure you can manage to keep the recommended 2-metre distance between yourselves and the other family.

I'm telling you about my favourites below in hopes that it inspires families to go beyond the usual trailheads. Trust me, there is life beyond Elbow Falls!! Let's spread out and choose parks with lots of wide open space.

And please remember that there are no bathrooms open in many parks at this time. Pack emergency supplies with you and be prepared to pack everything out with you. (Yes, that includes a pile of poo!!)

You should also drive straight to the trailhead or campground from your house and then drive straight home again. Stay out of Canmore.

Need to get gas on your way out? Wear gloves and touch nothing with your skin. I have hand sanitizer in my car as well for this purpose. 

And if you don't feel comfortable leaving the city? No problem. Don't! I'm simply presenting options for those who will do so with or without my recommendations so that I can encourage families to explore NEW QUIET AREAS and to spread out!

See the crowds on the closed Bow Valley Campground roads? Me neither! 

A few recommended campgrounds near Calgary:

Bow Valley Campground, Bow Valley Provincial Park

Park at the Middle Lake day use area and bike around on the quiet paved campground roads. They are open to vehicles as of May but they are very quiet. Cars will also be driving very slowly and will give cyclists plenty of space. We like to bike to the Elk Flats Group Campground where you can have a picnic. We then continue on to the Many Springs Trailhead (bring a bike lock if you want to go for a short hike,) and then we head down to the river. From there we return through the campground.

You can also hike around the park, completing a loop with the Elk Flats, Bow River, and Moraine Trails. Add on the Middle Lake or Many Springs Loop to extend the distance. See the map here.

Finally there is a paved bike trail that connects the Visitor Centre near the Highway 1X with the camp store. We like to bike around the campground from Middle Lake and then hop on the bike trail at the end to extend our ride. We return to Middle Lake on the road. This can all be done in a big loop of 12km.

Hiking along the river in the Bow Valley Campground 

Willow Rock Campground, Bow Valley Provincial Park

Park at the campground gate and hike into the Flowing Waters Interpretive Trail.

The Flowing Water Trail is a great early season hiking option

Paddy's Flat Campground, Elbow Valley

Park at the campground gate and hike down to the river. Hike along the Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail until it joins the Riverview Trail

Hiking along the Paddy's Flat Trail by the Elbow River 

Beaver Flats Campground, Elbow Valley

This is a hike-in campground until Highway 66 opens on May 15th. Park at the winter gate by Elbow Falls and walk down the closed highway. (It's also a fabulous bike ride when the snow is gone!!) - Note that this has been a very popular parking area lately so you should aim to arrive early in the day or go mid-week!

Either hike/bike all the way to the campground (30 minutes at most on a bike) or stop at the Beaver Lodge Day Use area (about a 5 minute walk from the winter gate) and hop on the Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail.

The hiking trail takes you to the campground and is a great hike with kids as you meander along beaver ponds (which are super fun to play in.)

Playing in the water along the Beaver Flats Trail in the Elbow Valley 

6. Explore Closed Highways or Roads near Home 

We love biking on closed highways and roads in spring. It's a great way to self-distance yourself from others too when you're on a big road with space for miles! (Much easier than on a narrow bike path in the city!)

Top 3 highways to ride with kids near Calgary:

Highway 66 outside Bragg Creek  (opens to vehicles on May 15th) - Enjoy this big wide open space to ride as a family. There are many hills and it is a challenging ride if you go all the way to the Little Elbow Campground. Park at the winter gate and go as far as the Beaver Flats Campground with younger kids or just ride as far as you get and turn around.

Highway 40 west of Longview (opens to vehicles on June 15th) - Park at the winter gate at Highwood Junction and ride as far as you get, returning when the kids get tired. You'll have some very big hills in both directions so save energy for the return ride. We like to ride as far as the Cat Creek day use area where we then hike in to see the falls.

Highway 546 west of Turner Valley (opens to vehicles on May 15th) - Park at the winter gate and ride towards Sheep River Falls (a return distance of 30+ km with some big hills.) Turn around whenever the kids get tired (you likely won't make it to the falls.) This is one of the best road rides for wildlife viewings and if you're lucky you'll see sheep.

Biking Highway 66 in the Elbow Valley (closed to vehicles until May 15th) 

Read the following stories for inspiration here:

Biking Highway 40 in Southern Kananaskis

7. Explore Quiet Trails near Home 

The trails in Kananaskis are open again and there are many great options for a short day hike near home.

Don't feel comfortable hiking right now, don't! I'm including this section for those looking for quiet trails outside the city to escape the crowds in city parks.

Quiet spring day at Heart Creek 

Below are some recommended stories:

** Disclaimer, I have not edited or updated these guides for the season. They do list some popular hikes that you may want to avoid right now (especially on a weekend.) 

** I also recommend doing a bit of research on your hike before you head  out. The visitor centres are not open in Alberta's provincial parks so you won't be able to get advice or current trail conditions there. Some trails might be closed this spring, and the national parks are currently closed.

As of May, Troll Falls is closed for trail maintenance. 

Quiet shoulder season hike on the Prairie View Trail 

If you choose to visit the provincial parks, please follow the guidelines and information below:

  • Avoid the mountain towns of Canmore and Bragg Creek. Go straight to the trailhead and back home again. (Banff National Park is closed for hiking right now and they currently have check stops at all entrances to the Town of Banff where you'll be turned away if you try to access the town.)

  • Stay close to home and return to your own bed for the night.

  • There are not many bathrooms open in the provincial parks right now. Go to the bathroom before you leave home and bring emergency supplies with you in case somebody in your family needs them. This should include wipes, toilet paper, plastic bags, and hand sanitizer. You will be packing everything home with you (and that includes your used toilet paper, diapers or a pile of poo!!)

  • Pack your garbage home with you! Nobody is collecting garbage in our parks right now.

  • Wear gloves if filling up with gas before you go. Stock your vehicle with hand sanitizer as well in case you have to touch anything while away from home.

  • Have a plan A, B, C, and D! If you get to a trailhead and the parking lot is already full,  please consider choosing a different trailhead or hike. Yes, people do separate once they get on the trail, but Alberta Parks could shut everything down again if they see hundreds of cars in a parking lot on a Saturday afternoon!

  • Avoid popular trails on a weekend and try to hike outside of peak times. Get an early start or head out later in the afternoon.

  • Carpooling is NOT physical distancing. Hiking with a group of friends is also not physical distancing unless you focus really hard on keeping the recommended 2-metre distance from one another. If your family is not comfortable hiking by yourselves, consider waiting and not hiking at this time.

  • Remember that bears are waking up and starting to move around for the spring. Bring bear spray with you and make lots of noise.

We always choose quiet days to climb Prairie Mountain in spring 

8. Stay Home but Plan for the Future 

For those that are starting to get depressed about having to stay close to home I recommend a bit of dreaming, list making, and goal setting right now. Get the kids involved as well and focus on happier times ahead.

Create a 2020-2021 Winter Fun List

Did you have trips get cancelled this spring? Add them to a 2020-2021 Winter Fun list. Were there trips you wanted to do, but ran out of time? Add them to the list. Maybe there was a trail you wanted to ski or a hike you wanted to do - add it to the list.

Creating a list for next winter creates hope that cancelled trips were really just "rescheduled" or "postponed." They will still happen  - just a little bit later.

Inspiration for next winter:

Read: The Best of Winter in the Canadian Rockies - Gotta do THIS 

Where do you want to explore NEXT winter? 

Create Summer Fun Lists 

Nobody knows what this summer will look like but we can dream and we can plan.

Create a list of hikes you want to do as a family or a list of trails you want to bike.

Create a list of fun things you want to do this summer or maybe a list of summits you want to conquer as a family.

I keep these lists on my phone and then we check things off as we do them.

I also like writing lists on construction paper and we post them around the kitchen for inspiration.

Inspiration for this summer:

Read: The Best of Summer in the Canadian Rockies - Gotta do THIS 

What's on your Summer list this year? 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Ten Reasons to Hit the Slopes this Spring (Spring Skiing is the BEST Skiing)

Leave the hand and foot warmers behind, and bring out the sunblock because it's spring and it's the best time to ski! Gone are the days where you had to go inside between runs to warm up, and say hello to outdoor patios and bluebird days on the slopes.

Leave the hand warmers at home and grab your sunblock for some spring skiing!

Spring skiing is the BEST skiing and I hope you have at least at least a couple ski days scheduled on the calendar over the next two months. Better yet, plan a weekend away to visit a new resort with your family over spring break.

DISCLAIMER: Due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, all ski resorts are now closed for the 2020 season.

Ten Reasons to Hit the Slopes this Spring 

1.Skiing is way more enjoyable when you aren't freezing to death!

We've skied when it was -35 C with wind chill and I can assure you it wasn't very fun.

Hit the slopes this spring and enjoy:

  • More skiing without having to keep going inside to warm up

  • Happy fingers and toes

  • No worries about the kids catching frostbite (and you don't have to keep your face constantly covered)

  • Being able to stop to take photos! (my phone doesn't come out much when it's -30)

  • Less bulky clothing! You can even ski in a hoodie!

Spring skiing in a hoodie and a vest 

2. Relaxed starts and long days 

In winter we always try to hit the slopes when the lifts first open, but spring skiing is much more relaxed. The snow usually needs to soften up before you head out and many resorts stay open later in the afternoon. 

Sunshine Village is open through the May long weekend and Kendra Scurfield, Brand & Communications Director, provided the following inspiration:
"Sunshine's all natural snow, high elevation, and long sunny days make Sunshine famous for Canada’s Best Spring Skiing.  In the spring we extend our lift hours so skiers and boarders can enjoy an extra half hour of fun on the slopes."

My family also likes to take the opportunity to ski local in spring where we can visit WinSport's Canada Olympic Park after school, taking advantage of the extra daylight into the evening.

Sunshine Village is magical on a spring bluebird day 

3. The snow is still good!

I talked to Clarissa Amaro in Media, Marketing & Customer Relations at Panorama Mountain Resort and she painted the most glorious picture of spring skiing at Panorama.
"Panorama really comes alive in the Springtime. Every year we are skiing summit to base all the way through to Easter when the resort closes. Because of the resort's big vertical you’ll find winter conditions at the summit and soft, slushy spring conditions on the lower third of the mountain. The weather is warm, the sun shines and we see regular snowfalls overnight right through March."

Closing dates for resorts in the Canadian Rockies:

April 5th - Kimberley Alpine Resort

April 12th (Easter Sunday) - Kicking Horse, Castle Mountain Resort, Panorama

April 13th (Easter Monday) - Fernie Alpine Resort

April 19th - Nakiska and Revelstoke Mountain Resort

May 3rd - Lake Louise

May 18th (Monday of the May long weekend) - Sunshine Village 

Now I challenge you to hit one resort per weekend above. Wouldn't that be amazing?!

It doesn't get better than spring skiing in the Sun Bowl at Panorama Mountain Resort

4. It's a great time for beginners to learn to ski 

It's hard to get excited about learning a new sport when you're wearing ten layers of clothing, the air hurts your face, your fingers or toes are frozen, and you're essentially in "survival mode" counting down the minutes until you can go inside. 

Spring skiing is a completely different experience though. There's a festive feeling on the ski hill, you can spend hours outside in comfort, and falling down actually becomes humorous in the soft spring snow.

And I highly recommend checking for spring break camps at your local ski resort (or at a resort you plan to visit this March) 
"Looking for a great way to spend spring break? Get the kids into a 1, 2, 3 or 4 day camp, make new friends to ski with and enjoy your supervised lunch (included in the price and you can choose from our menu). Available to skiers aged 5-12yrs" - Nakiska Ski Area

Spring Break Camps run at Nakiska from March 24-27, 2020 and you can choose either one day, or consecutive days from 2 - 4 days total. See their website for more details. 

Nakiska is fabulous in spring and is often very quiet if you visit mid-week

WinSport's Canada Olympic Park also offers spring break camps from March 16th - 27th. Camps are sold in one-day lessons so pay for as many days as your budget will allow. 
"While they are not in the classroom let them be on the slopes! This full day of riding keeps your child outside while continuing their progression in a fun, safe, and dynamic learning environment under the guidance of our certified instructors. We make it even easier for you by including early care, offering late care, and you can even add on a hot lunch! Don't let your child sit at home and miss a full day outside on the hill!" - WinSport

Visit the WinSport website for more information.  

Ski close to home this spring break at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park 

Many of the bigger resorts offer spring break camps as well. Panorama Mountain Resort hosts special three and five day ski and ride camps from March 19th - 27th.

"It’s a great time for children to learn to ski or snowboard and during March break we host special three and five day ski and ride camps (March 19 -27)"

Revelstoke Mountain Resort also offers spring break camps and each camp includes a free 5-day child lift ticket.

Not a beginner? Take a beginner snowboarding lesson just to see what it's like. Take a park class and try to learn a new trick in the terrain park. Visit WinSport in Calgary and try the half pipe or visit Nakiska and take a few runs down the skier cross course that's set up in the terrain park. 

Try something new this spring.

The skier cross course at Nakiska is super fun and it's open to the public every day 

5. Discounted spring skiing passes

For those who didn't buy seasons passes for the winter, now is a great time to buy a special spring pass. And you'll get lots of skiing in over the next two months (even if you haven't been out much so far this winter.)

Sunshine Village Spring Skiing Pass - $999.00 + GST per family ($499.00 +GST per adult.) There's also a midweek pass for $349.00 per person which is the best deal (especially with spring break coming up.)

And new this year, "purchase up to 2 Bonus Spring Lift Tickets for $90 + GST each with any Adult Spring Pass or up to 5 Bonus Spring Lift Tickets with your Family Spring Season Pass."

With your spring pass you enjoy 62 days of unlimited skiing or riding from March 18th to May 18th, 2020.

April powder day at Sunshine Village 

Lake Louise Spring Skiing Pass - $999.00 + GST per family ($499.00 +GST per adult.) There's also a midweek pass for $349.00 per person which is the best deal (especially with spring break coming up.)

2020 Spring Passes provide up to 64 days of spring skiing and snowboarding with unlimited lift access from March 1st to May 3rd, 2020.

Spring break at Lake Louise and the snow is great!

Castle Mountain 2020/2021 Seasons Pass - Purchase your Castle Mountain seasons pass now for next winter and receive FREE SPRING SKIING for the rest of this season.

With the purchase of next season’s pass, you’ll enjoy up to 35 days of complimentary skiing + riding this spring, on top of 125 + days next year.

Read more about Spring at Castle Mountain Resort here

Castle Mountain Ski Resort is lovely on a warm spring day 

WinSport Spring Skiing Pass -  $129.99 + GST per youth and $189.99 +GST per adult.

Passes are valid until March 29th, 2020 when the hill closes for the season so buy your passes now and get the kids on the slopes every day over spring break. 

We love skiing at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park over spring break 


Avoid crowded day lodges and visit ski resorts with outdoor patios. Bring your own lunch or buy a burger from an outdoor barbecue. Soak up the sunshine (which helps boost your immune system) and enjoy live entertainment at many resorts.

"I love spring in the mountains!  Spring skiing is a weird, perfect mix of being able to shred but also enjoying the sunshine – who wouldn’t want patio weather on the top of a mountain?!"  - Kehna Y., staff member from RCR Resorts in Calgary 

Our 5 favourite resorts for patios and outdoor eating spaces across the Canadian Rockies: 

Panorama Mountain Resort - Panorama has mountain huts spread out around their entire mountain, each one serving cold beverages and hot food. 

For a fun descent down the mountain ride three chairlifts to the top of the mountain for a beverage at the Summit Hut (where they also serve burgers and hot dogs and have an outdoor patio.) 

Ski from the summit down to the Elkhorn Cabin where you can get a fresh homemade apple cider or order Swiss Raclette for lunch. They also have a small outdoor seating area. Ski from there down to the Mile 1 Hut (where there's also a patio) where you can get pulled pork sandwiches and cold or hot beverages. 

Ski down to the base where you'll find coffee shops and other restaurants (with several patio areas.) - Just watch how much you drink on that one descent lest you find yourself too tipsy to ride back up for another run! 

The Summit Hut will come alive this spring at Panorama Mountain Resort

Sunshine Village - Did you know that you don't even have to ski to enjoy the spring sunshine at Sunshine Village? I would honestly pay for a sightseeing gondola ride just to have lunch on the patio at Mad Trappers, a fun family-friendly pub with an awesome vibe and equally great food.

Lake Louise - The Kokanee Cabin is the place to be this spring at Lake Louise. Soak up the sun from this gorgeous patio located right beside the Glacier Express Gondola. The menu includes tasty smoked BBQ bites, hot soup and chili along with cold beverages of course.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort - I would travel all the way to Revelstoke this spring just to have a chicken burger from the Mackenzie Outpost, located at the top of the gondola. The outpost has a great patio and serves the best chicken burgers I've ever had in my life. Revelstoke Mountain Resort also sees a lot more sun in spring so head this way if you want some bluebird skiing.

Fernie Alpine Resort - I love the Lost Boys Cafe located at the top of the Timber Chair. I often take a break from skiing here while my boys do another lap or two. And they have a great patio with fabulous views over the valley. You can order both food + beverages here while you soak up the sunshine.

The Lost Boys Cafe at Fernie Alpine Resort (photo credit: Resorts of the Canadian Rockies)

7. Say hello to the après ski scene!

Slopeside bars and beer gardens, patio weather, and live entertainment where every ski day is a party this spring!

See #6 above for my list of our favourite patios at local resorts and see #8 below for a large list of fun events happening at resorts this spring.

My personal favourite après ski activity: Load the last chairlift to the very top of the resort you're skiing at and ski down to a mid mountain lodge that's open late for drinks on the patio before you ski back down to the base.

This works well at Revelstoke Mountain Resort where Revelation Lodge is open every Saturday until 4:00pm with live music and entertainment.

End your ski day by 3:00pm and you'll have time for a cold beverage on any of the patios scattered around the mountain at Panorama Mountain Resort as well.

At Sunshine Village Resort, Mad Trappers is open all evening for guests staying overnight at the lodge. Stay as long as you like and then download the gondola which runs until 5:30pm Saturdays. Alternately you can enjoy your food and beverages in the village and then take the ski out down. Just make sure you catch the last lift up Jack Rabbit at 4:30pm or you'll have to do a bit of pushing across the flats on the way to Goat's Eye. (You could always download the gondola as far as Goat's Eye and then ski down from there too.)

Skiing down from Sunshine Village on the ski out at the end of the day 

8. Fun events and free entertainment every weekend 

Buy your lift ticket and get a concert, a professional competition, or a fun family-friendly event included for no extra cost.

Just some of the fun events happening this spring at resorts across the Canadian Rockies

Live Music:

Beats in the Base at Castle Mountain Resort 

Major Events: 

  • Shake the Lake at Lake Louise on April 25th - Presented by Kokanee!  Apres ski on the Kokanee Kabin deck, with live music. Dress code for the day is a retro ski theme. Big activities this day will include pond skimming, the Kokanee Kup rail jam, and Bikinis for Breast Cancer.

  • Sunshine Village Slush Cup on May 18th - Held each year on the last day of the season, Slush Cup is a competition where participants ski or snowboard down a run into an icy pool of water. The aim is to skim across the pool until you've reached the end. This year, Sunshine Village will be celebrating their 92nd anniversary.

  • Slush Cup and Cardboard Canoe race at Castle Mountain Resort, April 5th - Go full send and try to waterski / ride across the huge man-made pond! And want to try a canoe? Your mission is to make a canoe out of only cardboard & tape, and then to ride that canoe down Whisky Jack into the slush pit. Will you sink or swim?

  • Spring Splash Festival at Kimberley Alpine Resort, April 4th and 5th - The wettest, wildest event in Kimberley! Grab the skis, boards and lawn chairs. There will also be live music, a BBQ and beer gardens, kids activities, a kids' bouncy castle and more! Saturday is the pond skimming competition and Sunday is the downhill dummy competition where you get to watch homemade sleds attempt to make it down the race slope.

  • Fernival at Fernie Alpine Resort, April 11th - 12th - Enjoy live music, the Raging Elk Powder, POLE, Paddle Relay Race, and the Coca-Cola Slope Soaker pond skimming competition.

  • Sunsplash Funkfest at Kicking Horse Alpine Resort, April 11-12th - Enjoy watching the Dummy Downhill Race and the Slush Cup Competition. There will also be an outdoor BBQ, live music, and a pig roast

  • Sun's Out Guns Out Rail Jam at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park, March 28th - 29th. Celebrate the final weekend of the winter season with family activities including back deck live music and the Washout Bike Race 

Slush Cup weekend is a fan favourite at every ski resort (photo credit: Resorts of the Canadian Rockies)

Beer Gardens and Patios:

     Family Festivals:

    Fernival Festival, Fernie Alpine Resort (photo credit: Resorts of the Canadian Rockies)

    9. Make the most of shoulder season while you wait for "true" spring 

    I find April to be depressing because I'm usually done with winter, but "true" spring seems to take forever to arrive. We find ourselves in this shoulder season where we've finished skiing, but can't go biking or hiking yet because there's still too much snow.

    If there's still snow in the mountains, why fight it? Just go skiing and make the most of it. Ski into spring and then pull your bike out after Easter. If you ski at Lake Louise or Sunshine you can ski into May!

    Snow in the mountains? Stop fighting it and enjoy the skiing! (this photo was taken in April at Sunshine Village)

    10. Ski through Easter weekend with fun events at many resorts 

    Easter falls on the closing weekend at many ski resorts this year. In addition to the festivals and events already mentioned above under #8, there are special Easter themed events at a few resorts.

    Easter events at resorts in the Canadian Rockies: 

    Catch the Easter Bunny at Lake Louise - April 10th - 12th

    And, get creative with cardboard for the annual Cardboard Box Downhill Derby  on Easter Sunday using only cardboard, string, and tape.

    Easter Bunny & Egg Hunt at Sunshine Village - April 11th -12th

    There will also be a non-denominational Easter Church Service at 11:00 AM on Sunday.

    Easter at Nakiska  - April 11th - 13th 

    Participate in the free Easter Scavenger Hunt and receive a prize! The Easter Bunny will also be on hill from 10am-2pm handing out treats and taking photos!

    Catch the Easter Bunny at Lake Louise (photo: Lake Louise Ski Resort)

    Monday, March 09, 2020

    5 Reasons to Ski Castle Mountain Resort this Spring (including Free Skiing!)

    We visited Castle Mountain Resort last winter for the first time as a family and we spent the entire drive home to Calgary talking about how we should move so that we could be closer to the resort. Well, we haven't moved yet, but we did put Castle on our "annual priority list" and we're extremely excited about our upcoming trip this month.

    You'll never visit Castle Mountain Resort just once

    Castle Mountain Resort is located in Southwestern Alberta, approximately an hour SW of the Town of Pincher Creek. Families living in the south part of Calgary can reach the resort in 2.5 hours, making the trip very doable for a 2-day weekend.

    We have a longer drive from the north of Calgary but we can easily reach Castle Friday night after work. Last year we spent most of Sunday at the hill as well and just stopped for dinner on the drive home that evening.

    5 Reasons to Ski Castle Mountain Resort this Spring

    1. Buy your 2020-2021 Season Pass and Receive FREE Skiing all Spring 

    Castle Mountain Resort is offering FREE spring skiing / riding from March 9th to closing day on April 12th with the purchase of a 2020-2021 season pass.

    "You can enjoy up to 35 days of complimentary skiing + riding this spring, on top of 125 + days next year! WOW!"

    Follow this link for complete information on the Castle season pass, along with details on the cost for each member of your  family, pass holder benefits, and conditions.

    One visit to Castle and my 10-year old was skiing the double black chutes!

    2. Affordable On-hill Accommodations

    We've been spoiled by a few too many ski in-ski out trips and now it's a huge priority when we plan family ski weekends. I want to be able to have a leisurely morning without a long drive to the ski hill, and my son likes to be first in line for the lifts opening. This means that staying very close to the hill is almost imperative for us. 

    At Castle Mountain Resort there is an affordable hostel and ski lodge located across the parking lot from the ski hill. It's not quite "ski out your door" lodging but I'm ok with having to carry my skis across a parking lot. It's also very handy on Sunday when you can pack up your car and go skiing without having to move the vehicle to a separate day-use parking lot. 

    The ski lodge offers traditional dorm-style hostel rooms (with beds arranged in rooms of 6 or 8) or you can upgrade to a private hotel-style room with either 2 queen sized beds or a queen bed and a double / single bunk.

    There is also a full kitchen facility and common room that all guests of the ski lodge can use.

    Simple but functional rooms at the Castle Mountain Ski Lodge 

    3. Castle is one of South Calgary's Closest Ski Resorts

    We often get our minds set on "heading to the mountains" to go skiing from Calgary but the reality is that for families living in South Calgary, Castle Mountain Resort is only 20 minutes further than Lake Louise. Skiing at Castle is quite a bit cheaper and as already mentioned, there's affordable accommodations right at the hill.

    Castle Mountain Resort is way less busy than the ski hills in Banff, sees less tourists, and has a lovely "locals vibe" that the larger resorts have lost over the years.

    I will always love the big mountain resorts in Banff, but Castle has a charm that you really have to experience - and there's no better time than the present to plan your trip south. 

    Read more about our epic ski weekend at Castle Mountain last winter here:

    "Go local" on your next ski vacation and head to Southern Alberta where the scenery is absolutely stunning!

    4. Beats in the Base Weekend Parties at Castle Mountain this Spring 

    Castle’s spring concert series is back with live performances every Saturday and Sunday afternoon all spring! 

    "Enjoy a burger from the BBQ and a cold beer from our outdoor bar as we transform the area outside of the T-Bar Pub into one giant, snowy beach!"

    Music on Saturday occurs from 2 to 5 pm and music on Sunday occurs from 1-4 pm. 

    And on a personal note, I can't tell you how excited I am for this! I've never been to a ski resort for a true spring skiing "outdoor party experience" before. We won't even have to drive home afterwards since we'll be staying at the ski lodge on the other side of the parking lot! 

    Spring fun at Castle Mountain (Photo credit: Nick Thornton)

    5. Fun Events every Weekend throughout Spring 

    There are several fun events planned at the resort through the months of March and April. Below are a few notable events.

    king of the Castle on March 21st - The annual event that crowns the King & Queen of Castle Mountain.

    "Come try your luck & put your skills to the test in a dual slalom race down Whiskey Jack. If you have the need…the need for speed, then who knows, maybe you have what it takes to don the Castle crowns! Racers will participate in two side-by-side, dual slalom races"

    Community Potluck Dinner on March 21st - Join the Castle Mountain Community Association for a potluck dinner within the main day lodge.

    "The fun starts at 6 PM with dinner to be dished out at 6:30 PM. The day lodge bar will also be open for beverages starting at 6:00 PM so come by early and have a gab with your neighbors and friends!"

    Borderline Jib in the Park on March 21st - From Noon to 4 PM there will be an all-ages open jam session event taking place in the new terrain park on Tumbleweed, within the Huckleberry Zone. 

    "There will be music, a high ollie contest, lowest carve contest, and prizes just for coming out as well!"

    Slush Cup on April 5th - Go full send and try to waterski / ride across our huge man-made pond! 

    "Not up for participating? Don’t worry, this is one of the best spectating events of the season!"

    Slush Cup at Castle Mountain Resort (Photo credit: Nick Thornton)

    Happy spring skiing everybody and we'll see you at Castle!

    Disclaimer: This story was written in partnership with Castle Mountain Resort where we will be hosted for an upcoming stay. As always, all opinions are my own.