Monday, December 05, 2022

A Family-Fun Winter Guide to Everything Cool at Kananaskis Village

Winter is magical in Kananaskis and there is no shortage of fun to be had at Kananaskis Village.  Staying overnight at the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge is the dream, but regardless, most of our favourite activities around the village are accessible to day users (including the fancy Nordic Spa at the lodge.)

Winter is magical at Kananaskis Village

Hiking, skating, skiing, and more at Kananaskis Village (Photo: Troll Falls Hike)

Below are our top ten favourite things to do in winter at Kananaskis Village as a day user or as a guest of the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge.

1. Go Skiing or Boarding at the Nakiska Ski Area 

Nakiska Resort is a great ski hill and we feel very comfortable here as a family. Not only is it the closest hill to Calgary for day trips, it's also small and easy to navigate. Lift lines are reasonable (especially mid week if the kids have a PD day,) and Kids' World, the beginner learning area with a magic carpet lift, is only $10 per person to use (free for kids under 6.) 

This is where my son learned to ski and we've enjoyed blending a few hours of skiing with an hour at the tube park. When we get tired of the crowds at the hill, we make our way down to Kananaskis Village for a cup of Starbucks coffee in the Lodge and some time spent in front of the fireplace relaxing.

Enjoying a family-friendly ski hill close to Calgary!

Pro tip: Arrive early. We always arrive by 8:30, take a duffel bag of clothing into the lodge, get dressed and ready to go without rushing or stressing, and then we're at the front of the lift line for 9:00. Most people don't even start arriving until 9 or much later, so you'll enjoy a good hour of skiing with no lines or crowds. (And you'll get the fresh corduroy or powder.) 

We also like that you can leave your shoes and a duffel bag inside the lodge on little shelves built under the tables in the cafeteria. There are plenty of hooks too for hanging a small backpack with your lunch, water bottles, etc. Just don't leave anything valuable in your bags and obviously, I'm talking about "small" duffels and backpacks! Don't try to bring in a large hockey bag on wheels!

Read more: 5 Reasons to make Nakiska your Local Ski Hill this Winter 

Nakiska is glorious on a mid-week PD Day with the kids

Nakiska has a great tube park for family fun!

2. Go Skating on the Village Pond

The Village skating pond is always ready to go for the season by Christmas. It is located right beside Kananaskis Outfitters (where you can rent skates should you need) and is a fun little place for kids to skate. 

Skating on the Pond at Kananaskis Village

If you want to play a game of hockey as a family, there is also a larger rink with boards surrounding it back by the sledding hill at the Village.

Also in addition to the skating pond, there are usually large piles of snow surrounding the pond that provide hours of entertainment for young children.

Kids will happily play here all day!

3. Go Sledding on the Village Hill 

There is a small sledding hill at Kananaskis Village tucked back in beside the hockey rink and the playground. Combined with an hour or so on the skating rink, it's a great way to spend half a day at the village.

Note the sledding hill is quite steep (and narrow) so it is perhaps best suited for slightly older children.

Kananaskis Village has a great sledding hill! 

4. Go Cross country skiing on the Village Trails

There are approximately 12 km of trails in the immediate Village area, all groomed and trackset through the winter season. Descend to Ribbon Creek and you have another 20+ km of trails.

Our favourite short loop is the 3 km Terrace Loop which is relatively flat and great for beginner skiers. Once the kids can do this loop, try lengthening it with a climb up Kovach and Aspen to the meadow on the Aspen trail for a 6 km loop. There is a very exciting descent down to the village at the end on the Kovach Trail if you ski the loop counter clockwise.

Easy skiing near Kananaskis Village

For another easy option, try skiing the Bill Milne Trail which is a great family-friendly option free of any large hills as long as you stay close to the highway. The best section with kids goes from Kovach Pond to the Mount Kidd RV Park.

All trails around the Village allow dogs on leash. For skate skiing, the Bill Milne Trail is the only one with a skating lane.

All trails along with recent grooming for both the Village and Ribbon Creek Trails can be seen on the Nordic Pulse website. 

You can also pick up a trail brochure from the Barrier Lake Visitor Centre or download a map here. 

And as you  puzzle over the map above, the arrows indicate where the top of a big hill is. The big part of the arrow is the top. They do not indicate that you need to ski a particular direction.

Beginner-friendly skiing on the Bill Milne Trail

Need to rent skis:

If you need to rent equipment (or just want some suggestions on which trails to ski,) pop into Kananaskis Outfitters. You can also call ahead if you want to book a ski lesson.

Out for a Christmas ski on the Bill Milne Trail

Ski Trails for intermediate/advanced skiers around Ribbon Creek

If you have capable youth who are comfortable with climbing and descending some steep hills, check out the Skogan Pass Trail and the Sunburst Loop to the Hummingbird Plume Lookout site. 

You'll be climbing 600 metres to reach the top of Skogan Pass, so it's a workout, but very exhilarating on the way down! The Sunburst Loop is shorter (with less height gain) so it's a good alternative if you only make it part way up the Skogan Pass Trail before realizing that you've had enough climbing.

Both trails are groomed and trackset throughout the winter. The parking lot for these trails is at Ribbon Creek, just a short drive down the road from the Village. (The link goes to Google Maps.)

Hummingbird Plume Lookout Site on the Sunburst Loop

Skogan Pass is a big climb, but allows for a very fun descent!

Another fun loop I enjoy combines the Hidden, Ribbon Creek, Link, Kovach, and Terrace Trails for an intermediate 8 - 12 km loop (starting either from the Ribbon Creek parking lot or from Kananaskis Village.)

Note with the Ribbon Creek Trail you will be taking the SKI trail and not the snowshoe trail. The ski trail climbs above the creek at the beginning. You'll start out on the Hidden Trail from the Ribbon Creek parking lot until you reach the first junction.

Also, I recommend the Ribbon Creek Trail be climbed from Hidden so that you can enjoy the big hilly section going downhill to the creek with its large S-turns. That would mean you should do the loop counter clockwise. If you start at Kananaskis Village, start out on the Terrace Trail, skiing down to Ribbon Creek.

Ribbon Creek is a beautiful ski trail

A few sections of the Ribbon Creek loop are also shared with hikers.

See the full winter map here (with skiing, hiking, and fat biking trails.)

Dark blue trails are supposed to be skier-only. Light blue trails are shared for skiing, hiking, and fat biking.

Easy skiing along Ribbon Creek on the lower section

5. Go for a Hike to Troll Falls and the Upper Falls 

The hike to Troll Falls has long been a family favourite in the Kananaskis Village area. The hike is short at 3 km round trip and it's a great trail if you want to pull kids in a sled. 

Troll Falls is a great destination for a family hike

Once you reach Troll Falls, you can also follow the signed trail to the Upper Falls where you'll reach an amazing frozen waterfall (Marmot Falls) where you can walk behind the ice. The extension is only another kilometre return.

Marmot Falls is incredible in winter!

For the truly adventurous, keep climbing along Marmot Creek on an easy-to-follow trail until you reach a third waterfall. This one is a double two-tier waterfall and is also very beautiful. The full hike to both waterfalls is no more than 2 km return from Troll Falls.

The true "Upper Falls" above Marmot Falls

You won't need snowshoes for this hike as the trail is always well packed down and easy to walk on. Ice cleats or spikes come in handy though (especially if you want to climb to the Upper Falls.)

Note the Troll Falls trail is a shared trail with skiers, so please stay off of the ski tracks and move to the side if you see skiers coming down a hill towards you.

Read more:

Standing behind frozen Marmot Falls

6. Hike the Multi-Use Trail System around the Village and Ribbon Creek

The Ribbon Creek Trail is a beautiful hike or snowshoe, and kids love all the bridges along the trail. When it's frozen you can sometimes hike in the creek itself as well.

The trail is shared with skiers halfway along so please stay off the ski tracks.

To make a loop from the Ribbon Creek parking lot (Google maps link,) follow the Ribbon Creek Trail until you reach the junction with Link (another shared ski trail.) Return to the parking lot on Link, Shinrin and Studless (winter hiking and fat biking trails.)

Trying to ski down the Ribbon Creek snowshoe trail

The full Ribbon Creek loop is 6 km and all hills are quite gentle. 

Note if you want to use a sled, stick to just the Ribbon Creek Trail and return the same way. Shinrin and Studless are narrow and not suitable for sleds.

See the full winter map here (with skiing, hiking, and fat biking trails.)

Light blue trails are shared for skiing, hiking, and fat biking. Pink trails are for snowshoeing or fat biking (and will be more narrow.)

There are also hiking trails up by the Village, but I think the Ribbon Creek Trail is the prettiest option.

The trail network around Ribbon Creek is great for a family winter hike

7. Sign up for a Guided Evening Stargazing Tour

Kananaskis Outfitters runs daytime snowshoe tours from the Village that are perfect for the whole family. Alternately, sign up for an evening stargazing tour (appropriate for families with youth 12+.) 
"In an open meadow, your group will pause to relax and take in the night sky; you are welcome to bring a camera and tripod to try out some astrophotography or to just hang out with the group, peek through the telescope and chat about astronomy."

Visit the Kananaskis Outfitters website for dates, pricing, and more information.  

Stargazing at Kananaskis Village 

8. Rent Fat Bikes for a Ride around the Village (or join a tour to a frozen waterfall)

You can rent fat bikes from Kananaskis Outfitters in the Village and then head out on the multi-use winter trails for a self-guided adventure. You can even bring your older children because the Outfitters has 24" youth fat bikes available to rent.

Call ahead to reserve your gear so that you don't arrive to find the bikes already signed out for the day.

For trail suggestions, it's best to talk to the Outfitters when you pick up your bikes. 

Family-friendly fat biking around Kananaskis Village

Personally, I like the multi-use Bill Milne Trail (shared with cross-country skiers) which is groomed and blessedly flat once you reach the lower section. From the village, you'll descend ~100 metres of height to reach Ribbon Creek, but after that the trail is perfectly flat. 

Note children may struggle with the climb back up to the Village at the end, so be careful how far you ride on the flat part. Save some energy for the end.

Another easy beginner-friendly outing is to Troll Falls on a mult-use trail (shared with skiers and hikers.) The 3 km round trip trail has a couple of hills but they aren't that big. Unfortunately, this is another one where you'll have to start by riding down to the trailhead on the upper section of the Bill Milne Trail.

Easy riding on the groomed Bill Milne Trail

Join a Guided Tour to Troll Falls: 

Families with strong cyclists 14+ can sign up for a guided tour to Troll Falls. I suspect you'll be starting and ending at the Village, so make sure you have youth who can climb at least 100 metres (which doesn't sound like much, but mountain biking is harder when you add snow to the adventure.)

More information on renting bikes or joining a guided tour can be found on the Kananaskis Outfitters website

Family Fat Bike Adventure to Troll Falls

9. Go For Coffee at the Lodge and Hang out by the Fireplace

No matter where we go play in Kananaskis, we often stop off at the Village on the way home to grab a coffee and hang out by the fireplace in the lodge. 

The large fireside room is magical at Christmas

There's a great cafĂ© in the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge and they serve Starbucks Coffee along with other grab and go items for lunch. My son is partial to their large cookies too.

The lodge is especially magical at Christmas, and we always like looking at the gingerbread house creations.

Every year the lodge creates amazing gingerbread houses or villages

Now THIS is a gingerbread house!

10. Plan a Visit to the Kananaskis Nordic Spa (adults only)

The Kananaskis Nordic Spa is one of my favourite places in all of Kananaskis. I ask for a gift card every Christmas and I love my day trips here. Sometimes I come with a group of girlfriends for a day or else I let me husband tag along and we leave our son behind for this glorious adventure. 

The spa is truly a magical experience and one visit will never be enough.

"Spanning 50,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor space, the Spa features a Relaxation Lodge, five outdoor pools, five steam and sauna cabins, an exfoliation cabin, fireside lounges, massage treatments, and the Two Trees Bistro."

Cameras aren't allowed at the spa so I'd suggest visiting the link above to see a full collection of professional photos.

And note that the spa is not included in stays at the Kananaskis Lodge unless you purchase a special spa package. All guests must also be 18+ (trust me it's at the top of my son's list for birthday gifts when he turns 18!)

Prepared for a magical day at the Nordic Spa

Disclaimer: This story was not paid for or sponsored. All words and opinions are my own.