Snowdays! Remember that feeling you had when you were little? The feeling of anticipation, of excitement, and of sheer joy? Maybe it was something like sticky snow under your feet, the kind that you could roll into the perfect snowball to launch as far as you could muster. Maybe it was swooshing down the ski slopes, and spraying your little brother when you came to a flying stop. Whatever the moment, it’s the feeling of joy that simply can’t be mistaken for anything else. I look out at this winter wonderland, I am overtaken by a feeling of joy and gratitude, and my mind is fluttering between all of the ways to play out there.
It’s worth noting that the Canadian Rockies are a mega destination, and if I were to draw a rectangle starting at the bottom right corner, it would span from Calgary, moving left to Banff, further on to Lake Louise, north to Jasper and finally eastward bound to Edmonton. It’s a largely diverse area boasting world-renowned ski resorts, extraordinary wildlife, large national parks, remarkable mountains, and of course Castles, but to know all of that is to barely scratch the surface. For me, the magic of this place is in the little moments that bring out our childlike joy. Here are some my favorite ways to play in this winter wonderland –
1. Soar to the mountain tops –
It goes without saying that the Canadian Rockies have truly remarkable skiing and riding, but what’s really incredible is just how untouched and raw the terrain here feels, which seems to remind us of how unique this playground. For skiers and riders, you can explore an array of resorts for any liking. From Lake Louise, home to the World Cup Downhill, to Norquay, the closest resort to the town of Banff with a range of pistes, or even to Marmot, Jasper’s local secret, there really is terrain that can match any skill set, no matter how novice or experienced you may be. And for those looking for things outside of skiing, there are still ways to soar to the mountain tops without having to strap skis to your feet. Visit the Banff Gondola for a classic vantage point from Sulphur Mountain overlooking the valley, and climb the mountain from the comfort of a gondola cabin.
2. Take in spectacular sights –
Sometimes the activity, like skiing or snowboarding, can be the headline of any vacation, but sometimes it’s the moment between the moments that actually sneaks its way to the top of the list. For example, driving from Banff to Lake Louise, while you may be doing with ski gear in tow, and from Lake Louise to Jasper are truly jaw-dropping experiences, where you will likely hear yourself comment on just how rocky and massive the Canadian Rockies are, which sounds obvious, but trust me, it’s bigger and rougher looking than imagined. The road from Lake Louise to Jasper is the iconic Icefields Parkway, which can be as treacherous as it sounds in the winter, so if this is on your list, make sure your car is suitable for the drive and has approved winter tires. If taking in the sights includes witnessing the world’s most talented ice carvers compete, then pencil in the SnowDays and Ice Magic competition in Banff and Lake Louise from Jan 15-26, 2020 to see the artists in action. Or head up to Jasper, where Jasper in January is a festival celebrating winter for the entire month.
3. Meet the Locals –
The town of Banff is the quintessential ski town peppered with boutiques and plenty of great dining options. Just wandering around the town and meeting the local shop owners is a great way to experience the area and to get insider tips on some of the daily snow and weather conditions that can change frequently, giving real-time insights into activities best suited to the day. The town also has attractions like Bow Falls, the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, the Banff Gondola, and the Banff Hot Springs. For the animal lovers out there, make sure you go out for a dog sledding adventure for a truly quintessential winter experience as you’re led through the wilderness by expert four-legged locals and their mushers.
4. Explore the nooks and crannies –
Strap on your skates, boots, or clamps, add an extra layer, and head out for the hills! But let’s start at ground level and work our way up – The sparkling, glacier-fed waters of Banff National Park freeze over in winter, providing some of the most scenic ice skating rinks in the world. The Fairmont Banff Springs maintains two rinks: one on the main terrace and the second along the shores of the Spray River by the Waldhaus Restaurant, so if you’re looking for convenience, look no further. There are also a few other iconic, and yes convenient, options over in Lake Louise and Jasper – where Lake Louise and Jasper lakes are set up for skating, and the occasional drop-in hockey game, just a few steps away from the iconic Fairmont hotels overlooking the action. Pop into the castle to rent skates and gear and head out to the largest natural outdoor ice rink in the shadow of Victoria Glacier. Heading uphill from the ground level is an array of hiking trails, which can be accessed from Lake Louise with their Mountain Adventure Guides. And finally, for those young, and healthy, of heart, there’s ice climbing. Trust me, you’ll definitely want your clamps and ice picks for this!
5. Escape for Spring Break –
Whether you’re looking to escape the crowds to find peace in the outdoors, or you’re looking for a line up of things to do together with your family, look no further than the Canadian Rockies. Choose from an array of outdoor activities that cater to first-time beginners through to advanced expert levels, such as ice climbing, guided tours, drop-in skating, or skiing, or curl up by a fire in a historic Canadian castle while daydreaming through the windows overlooking the magical winter wonderland. Looking for a perfect time to travel this spring? Check out these deals for Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper and make the most out of your vacation. Also, keep in mind that US dollars go 30% further in Canada due to favorable exchange rates!