Winter in Alberta means bright and sunny bluebird days, ice-covered lakes and fluffy Champagne powder that makes for some of the best skiing in the world. Bundle up, get outside and make the most of the season. Here are some suggestions to create your winter bucket list.
Hit the Slopes
Let’s check the most obvious choice off first. An Alberta winter bucket list wouldn’t be complete without skiing or snowboarding in the Canadian Rockies. Alberta is home to some of the best skiing in the world, whether you’re a first-timer or ready to tackle black diamond runs.
The most well-known of Alberta’s ski resorts are the Big 3 – Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Marmot Basin – but others throughout the province are well worth exploring. In the south, you’ll find Castle Mountain Resort, which is also where you can try cat skiing; venture into Kananaskis Country and ski Nakiska; or spend a day skiing and snow tubing at Mount Norquay near the Banff townsite.
Skate on Lake Louise
Have you ever gone skating on a frozen lake in the Canadian Rockies? What about one that looks straight out of a postcard? Skating on Lake Louise is a winter rite of passage in Alberta. You’ve got plenty of opportunities to enjoy it too, since skating is offered from mid-December to mid-April, depending on the weather. The lake is cleared daily, so you’ll have ideal conditions to practice your footwork. It’s also lit up in the evening for night skating. When you’re ready to hang up your skates for the day, settle in for a cocktail and dinner at the Fairview Bar & Restaurant in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Snowshoe in the Rockies
A snowshoe-assisted trek through powdery snow on a crisp winter day is a longstanding Canadian pastime. It’s also an easy way to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. Banff Adventures offers several different snowshoe tours, ranging from beginner excursions to more scenic experiences. If you’re feeling adventurous, give heli-snowshoeing a try for epic views and snowshoeing on a mountain top.
Go Dogsledding in K-Country
If you’d rather sit back and relax while you take in the mountain scenery, let a pack of friendly sled dogs lead the way. Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours in Kananaskis Country – or K-Country, as the locals say – will take you on an unforgettable ride. And you may even meet some celebrity pups during your visit. The pack at Snowy Owl has been in several movies, including the 2019 Disney film, Togo.
Ride in a Horse-Drawn Sleigh
There’s a nostalgic quality to a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Dash through the snow on a cozy sleigh ride for two or book a larger group adventure. Even better? It’s a winter activity that’s not limited to one part of the province. In Banff National Park, visit Banff Trail Riders at Warner Stables or hitch a ride at Lake Louise with Brewster Adventures, to name a couple of options. Boundary Ranch in Kananaskis Country offers sleigh and wagon rides through picturesque scenic wooded trails. In Central Alberta, pay a visit to Heritage Ranch.
Ice Walk at Maligne Canyon
Maligne Canyon is an iconic landmark in Jasper National Park – not to mention, it’s the deepest accessible canyon you’ll find there. The canyon is a great photo op in the summer, but it’s like another world when you experience it in winter. The Maligne Canyon ice walk tour will take you into the canyon to explore frozen waterfalls and ice caves.
See the Ice Bubbles at Abraham Lake
You’ve likely seen the famous Abraham Lake ice bubbles on Instagram, but nothing beats experiencing them in real life. December to March is prime bubble-spotting time, and Pursuit Adventures can show you the best places to see this natural phenomena. Exploring with a guide will also mean you have access to ice cleats – safety first, after all – and delicious homemade hot chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers.
Visit the Nordic Spa
Treat yourself with a day of pampering at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa. The spa is an alpine retreat, equipped with 5,000 square metres (50,000 square feet) of indoor-outdoor relaxation space – all surrounded by mountain peaks. Take a dip in the five plunge pools (ranging from cold to hot), curl up in a winterized hammock, book a massage or grab a bite in the Two Trees Bistro. The mantra to remember is “hot, warm, cold, rest, repeat.” Remember to book ahead, as reservations are required.
Ride the Banff Gondola
A ride on the Banff Gondola is a must-do any time of year, but riding up Sulphur Mountain in the winter is especially magical. The surrounding scenery looks like a real-life snow globe, and the view from the top is worth the trip alone. Once you’ve snapped photos to your heart’s content, spend some time strolling along the boardwalk. If you want to savour the view, along with delicious food, stop in at Sky Bistro. Locally sourced dishes pair exceptionally well with panoramic mountain scenery experienced 2,255 metres (7,400 feet) up.