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 homebase 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 Coronavirus. 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

How Will Your Garden Grow? - AK on the Go

28 Days of Activities for Kids(+Free Printable): staying sane during Covid-19 - 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 social distancing which can be challenging on neighborhood pathways on a warm sunny day. Sending the kids off to play with their friends is also NOT social distancing! Going for a walk around the neighborhood means "walking around with your immediate family" - and that's it!

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 geocaching app on my phone and paid for a subscription - though you can use the free version as well.)

  • 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 

  • As long as there's still snow, visit your neighborhood sledding hill and bring all the toys! You could even bring skis or snowboards and build a jump for the kids.

  • 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 

You can also join the 30 Day Get Outside Family Challenge from Tales of a Mountain Mama. Once you sign up you'll get a new challenge emailed to you every day in April. 

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 or park near your house 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 social 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 most parks don't have bathrooms open early spring so be prepared for emergencies and pack everything out with you!

And, 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

**  Note that as of March 27th, all Alberta provincial parks are closed to vehicle access. In the immediate Calgary area, this would include Fish Creek, Glenbow Ranch, and Big Hill Springs.

All other Calgary parks are currently open.

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

Recommended Reading:

Nature Walk Printables - Backwoods Mama 

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

5. 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. 

    Sunday, March 01, 2020

    Active Family Guide to Winter in Radium Hot Springs

    We spend a lot of time in Radium Hot Springs year round but winter is growing on us as one of our favourite seasons for exploring this quiet village. We walk around searching for the local sheep herd and we keep our eyes peeled for for the flock of wild turkeys that roams wild in the streets.

    We explore the peaceful trail along Sinclair Creek or we head down into Sinclair Canyon for a hike before we head to the hot springs to warm up and relax.

    Active Family Guide to Winter in Radium Hot Springs

    From Calgary (where we live)  it is a 3 hour drive to the Village of Radium Hot Springs and the gateway to the Columbia Valley. The drive is very doable for a 2-day weekend and many local families head out after work on Friday. You can spend all day Saturday and most of Sunday exploring before you have to head home Sunday afternoon. (And sometimes if we leave late on Sunday, we'll just stop in Canmore for dinner on our way home.)

    Take a walk around the Springs Golf Course in the village and you'll see lots of bighorn sheep

    So far this winter we've spent three weekends in Radium Hot Springs and we still have trails we haven't explored or hikes we'd like to check out. My top ten list below is just the beginning of places you can (and should) visit next time you visit Radium Hot Springs with your family in the winter season.

    Active Family Guide to Winter in Radium Hot Springs

    1. Visit the Radium Hot Springs Pools

    The Radium Hot Springs mineral pools were closed on our last couple of visits but there is great hope that the hot springs will reopen again this spring as soon as some essential repairs are finished. 

    You can read the latest news announcement here and follow for information on the reopening of the pools. 

    The Radium Hot Springs hot soaking pool is magical in winter (credit: Tourism Radium Hot Springs)

    When open, we absolutely love visiting the Radium Hot Springs mineral pools where you can enjoy both a large hot soaking pool along with a separate heated swimming pool, open year round (complete with slide and diving board in the summer months.) We've easily spent hours here at a time and we look forward to the pools reopening this spring in time for camping season. 

    In the meantime, if you're planning a trip to Radium Hot Springs before the pools open, you can either visit the Fairmont Hot Springs pools or you can go in search of Lussier Hot Springs, natural pools located off the Whiteswan Forestry Road. 

    Lussier Hot Springs in Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park 

    2. Search for Bighorn Sheep on the Springs Golf Course

    We stayed at the Bighorn Meadows Resort the last time we were in Radium and we enjoyed walking around the property searching for the herd of bighorn sheep that makes Radium their home.  The resort is located on the ninth fairway of the Springs Golf Course where you'll almost always find large numbers of sheep hanging out in the morning or late afternoon.

    Bighorn sheep relaxing on the Springs Golf course late afternoon 

    We also love the views over the Columbia River wetlands that you can enjoy as you walk around the golf course in the winter months when it's closed for the season. We particularly like the views from the back nine where you can look down on the river from the escarpment beside the 18th hole.

    Note you can usually just walk around the golf course in winter, but if there's enough snow, you could also snowshoe or cross-country ski. (Obviously not when we were here.)

    Looking down over the Columbia River from the Springs Golf Course

    3. Walk around the Village Looking for Local Wildlife 

    If you don't find enough wildlife on the golf course, I recommend walking around the quiet village streets where you're almost guaranteed to find at least a couple of deer munching on the plants in somebody's front yard.

    Wild turkeys hanging out on the main street in Radium Hot Springs 

    If you're lucky, you'll also find the flock of wild turkeys that roams the neighborhood near Legend's Field behind the main street in town. In the large park you'll also find the new library, a sledding hill, a brand new hockey rink, and a really nice playground.

    You don't usually have to go far to find a herd of sheep in Radium (often right on the main highway through town)

    And while you're out, I recommend stopping in at the Bighorn Cafe on the main street. Personal menu favourites include their breakfast burritos and their cinnamon buns. Most importantly, they serve good strong coffee.

    Always my second home when I'm in Radium Hot Springs 

    4. Take a Walk along Sinclair Creek 

    The Sinclair Creek Trail is another good walk for those wanting to find the local wildlife. We often see deer when we're exploring along Sinclair Creek in the winter.

    Easy hiking along Sinclair Creek where you'll often see at least a couple of deer 

    The easiest way to access this trail is from the official parking lot off Forsters Landing Road where you turn into the Canfor Sawmill (a fun adventure in and of itself for the kids as you drive through the middle of the mill.)

    Sinclair Creek is a fun place to explore year round in Radium Hot Springs 

    The trail is relatively flat and offers very easy walking. There are a couple of pretty little bridges and the creek is fun to explore year round. From the parking lot you can either follow the official trail or you can head left and ramble off trail through the wetlands. We tried this for the first time on our last visit and it was very pretty.

    Note that the trail is usually well packed down and you shouldn't need snowshoes or anything. You might need ice cleats though if it hasn't snowed recently.

    The wetlands are very pretty to explore if you venture beyond the official trail along Sinclair Creek 

    5. Hike Sinclair Canyon

    This trail officially puts you into the category of "winter hiking" and I wouldn't recommend it with exceptionally young children. You'll also want ice cleats or microspikes (especially if dropping down from the highway.)

    There are two main ways to access the canyon and the first one is by far the easiest (and best for small children.)

    HIking along Sinclair Creek in the bottom of Sinclair Canyon 

    Access one: Drive down into the Canyon RV Resort  (the road is open in winter) and park beside the entrance to the "Creekside in the Canyon" property. Hike through the streets of Creekside, until you reach the trailhead for the Sinclair Canyon trail which follows Sinclair Creek.

    And in case you're confused, yes, this is the same creek I wrote about above, but there is no tunnel under highway 95 so you can not access the canyon from the Sinclair Creek parking lot in the sawmill.

    If you access the Sinclair Canyon Trail from the RV Resort you'll enjoy a pleasant walk on a relatively flat trail through a beautiful forest. (Tell the kids they're searching for elves or fairies and they'll definitely believe you.) The hike is less than a kilometre one way until you reach the end of the trail at a large waterfall.

    Sinclair Canyon is a magical place in any season 

    Access two: Take highway 93 up the hill towards the hot springs and park along the side of the highway at a viewpoint where you'll see a sign for the trail heading down into the canyon. The parking lot is just past the west gate and is on your left hand side as you leave Radium.

    From here, you can expect a very steep descent down into the canyon which I don't recommend with young children in winter. The trail is very slippery so you'll need ice cleats or spikes for sure.

    Once you reach the bottom you can hike left towards the RV resort or go right to see the waterfall. If you cross the bridge you'll be on the Juniper Trail which climbs to the hot springs pools. Unless you want to follow the Juniper Trail, return the same way you came by climbing back up to the highway.

    Photo opp on the bridge at the bottom of Sinclair Canyon 

    Extension for a more challenging hike: From the bottom of the canyon, cross the bridge and start climbing up the Juniper trail which gains 260 metres of height. The trail is 3.2 km long, one way, including the descent down from the highway.

    The trail switchbacks steeply to a couple of beautiful viewpoints over the canyon and the highway before it drops back down to the hot springs pools.

    HIking along the Juniper Trail from Sinclair Canyon 

    I recommend returning to your initial parking lot on the Redstreak Campground Trail (3.2 km in length) which starts behind the hot springs pools. If the pools are still closed though, you'll have to hike back down the highway on the sidewalk (not a bad thing because it means you get to walk through the canyon that you would have driven through on your way into town.)

    Viewpoint at the top of the Juniper Trail 
    HIking through Sinclair Canyon beside the highway 

    Follow this link for more information and trail descriptions for the Sinclair Canyon and Juniper Trails on the Parks Canada website.

    There is also a great trail map that you can download at the bottom of the Parks Canada page.

    Download a larger copy on the Parks Canada website 

    6. Go for a Hike around the Redstreak Campground Trails

    Using the map above you can see several trails that start from the Redstreak Campground. You can't drive all the way up to the campground in winter but you can get as far as the Valley View lookout. Park there and continue on foot. (Fortunately, most of the height gained on the climb up to the campground is before this viewpoint, and is done with your car.)

    Trail options from Redstreak:
    1. Valley View  Trail  - Follow the trail from where you park your car up to the campground entrance. You can also see it on Trail Forks as the Lookout Trail. 

    2. Redstreak Restoration Interpretive Trail - This trail starts beside the large campground wood pile and can also be found on Trail Forks as the Pacemaker Trail and the Pacemaker Return Trail. The Pacemaker Trail follows a scenic bench that looks over the village. We've often seen sheep on this trail.

    3. Redstreak Loop Trail - This trail starts in the E loop and climbs to a gorgeous viewpoint over the village. It's a steep trail and you may want ice cleats or spikes if it's icy.

    4. Redstreak Campground Trail - You can take this trail to the hot springs if they are open. It's a pretty forest trail that we've always enjoyed.

    Valley View Lookout at the winter gate before the Redstreak Campground 

    7. Take a Day Trip to Invermere to Skate the Whiteway 

    If you've fully explored Radium Hot Springs or your feet are getting tired from walking all over the village, grab your skates, jump in your car and head to the Community of Invermere, located beside Lake Windermere, and only a short 15 minute drive away.

    "In 2014 the Lake Windermere Whiteway was named the world’s longest skating trail by Guinness World Records. At over 30 km in length, this multi-use trail offers ice-skating as well as groomed skate and classic cross-country ski trails." - Toby Creek Nordic Club 

    Ice skating on the Lake Windermere Whiteway 

    Most families will park at Kinsman Beach in Invermere to access the Lake Windermere Whiteway and you can easily skate to the Community of Windermere approximately 6 km down the lake. When the skating trail on the west side of the lake is open, you can complete a 12 km loop between the two communities.

    My family personally likes to access the Whiteway from the public beach in Windermere so that we can skate to Invermere for lunch. We bring our boots with us in a backpack so we can walk across the road from Kinsman Beach to reach the Station Pub, a great family-friendly restaurant.

    Day use fees are requested, $5 per person, to use the Whiteway, and can be paid at either of the trail kiosks in Invermere or Windermere.

    One of our favourite ways to spend a day in the Columbia Valley!

    Also in the area:

    If you drive up the road towards Panorama Mountain Resort, you'll also be able to access the Lake Lillian Whiteway, located just 10 minutes outside of Invermere. This small lake has a 3 km ski loop, set for classic or skate skiing.

    This is one of the best places in the Columbia Valley for an easy family cross-country ski outing (and because you're on a lake, the trail is 100% flat and beginner-friendly.)

    Learning to ski on the Lake Lillian Whiteway outside Invermere 

    8. Take a Day Trip to Panorama Mountain Resort

    We absolutely LOVE Panorama Mountain Resort and we visit the resort at least 2-3 times every winter to either go downhill skiing or to explore the nordic trails on our cross-country skis.

    The resort is located a short 20 minutes from Invermere and is an easy day trip from Radium Hot Springs.

    Mornings are magical on the slopes of Panorama!

    You can read all about the resort in my previous stories:

    Read: Find it ALL at Panorama Mountain Resort

    Read: Family Guide to Panorama Mountain Resort 

    Read: Panorama Mountain Resort - (much more than downhill skiing)

    We love cross-country skiing up to the Hale Hut at Panorama Mountain Resort 

    9. Take a Day Trip to Fairmont Hot Springs 

    While the Radium Hot Springs pools are closed, this will be your best bet for a hot soak, and the resort is only 30 minutes south from Radium. We love the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort pools and kids will have fun in the large warm swimming pool. The hot soaking pool and the swimming pool are also side by side so you can watch your competent swimmers from the hot pool.

    You can't go wrong with a relaxing day trip to the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort 

    If you enjoy downhill skiing, you'll also find a great family-friendly resort here that is very affordable. The hot pools are included with all lift passes as well.

    Read more about our winter adventures at Fairmont Hot Springs here:

    Read: 5 Reasons you Need to Visit Fairmont Hot Springs Resort with your Family 

    Family-friendly ski resort at Fairmont Hot Springs (Credit : Fairmont Hot Springs Resort)

    10. Take a Day Trip to Nipika Mountain Resort 

    Nipika Mountain Resort  is an eco resort set amid a large trail network maintained for cross-country skiing, fat biking, and snowshoeing in the winter months. In summer you can enjoy mountain biking, hiking, and trail running.

    The resort is located 40 minutes east of Radium Hot Springs and it's a great place to visit on your drive back to Calgary because you'll take Highway 93 back into Kootenay National Park to access the resort.

    Skiing over the Natural Bridge at Nipika Mountain Resort

    Nipika has 50 km of trails groomed and maintained for classic and skate skiing. You'll also find 30 km of trails groomed for fat biking along with other trails designated for winter hiking or snowshoeing.

    We enjoy both cross-country skiing and fat biking here and you can rent any equipment that you need including fat bikes. They even have two youth fat bikes (one 20 inch bike and one 24 inch bike.)

    The trails are always meticulously cared for and you won't find better grooming in the Columbia Valley.

    Fat biking at Nipika Mountain Resort

    Where to Stay in Radium Hot Springs 

    We just spent a weekend in Radium and loved our stay at the Bighorn Meadows Resort, centrally located within walking distance to everything in the village.

    Our recommendation for lodging in Radium Hot Springs

    We had a luxurious two-bedroom townhouse that backed onto the Springs Golf Course and we could watch bighorn sheep right outside our kitchen window in the morning.

    We loved having a walk up townhouse where we could park right outside our door and easily unload the car when we arrived. Our unit was also very close to the hot tubs so we could run out the door for a soak after we got home from skiing on Saturday.

    This beauty was walking across the golf course right outside our townhouse

    You'll see lots of sheep when you stay at the Bighorn Meadows Resort 

    Features of our townhouse included:

    • 3 bathrooms

    • 3 televisions and a DVD player with the main television in the living room. (You can rent movies from the office if you didn't bring your own.)

    • A fully equipped kitchen so that you can save money on eating out

    • 2 bedrooms, each with a queen sized bed

    • A pull out sofa in the living room (so in theory we could have fit 6 people in our unit)

    • We loved that the bedrooms were upstairs so our son could go to bed early while we stayed downstairs without bothering him

    • In-suite laundry (which would have been useful for a longer trip)

    • An electric fireplace

    • A BBQ on a deck overlooking the golf course

    A look at the townhouse we stayed in at Bighorn Meadows Resort 

    We loved being able to walk all around town from our townhouse looking for wildlife, accessing the trails, and exploring the quiet village. We walked all over the golf course looking for bighorn sheep, we walked downtown to the coffee shop, and we easily walked over to the playground and sledding hill - all without having to hop in our car.

    Bighorn Meadows Resort, located on the Springs Golf Course in Radium Hot Springs

    We honestly could have parked our car Friday night and spent the whole weekend in town without ever having to drive anywhere.

    In the summer, there's also an outdoor swimming pool at the resort which would add even more incentive to stay at this resort.

    The resort has two outdoor hot tubs (open year round) and an outdoor swimming pool (in the summer)

    Disclaimer: Our stay at the Bighorn Meadows Resort was hosted by the resort. As always, all words and opinions are my own.

    All photos used in this story are my own (unless otherwise credited.)

    We have personally enjoyed all of the activities mentioned in this story and I have written from my own personal experience. 

    Parting shot of bighorn sheep freely roaming the golf course outside the Bighorn Meadows Resort