Where to ski, skate, snowshoe, tube, and toboggan in and around Calgary!
1. Check out a local Winter Festival
From Winterfest to the Glow Festival Downtown, CALGARY has lots of fun offerings. See 15 Things to Do in Calgary This Winter for more information.
CANMORE has several winter festivals! Check out the Rotary Festival of Trees; Re/Max Skate with Santa; New Year’s Eve Party on the Pond; FIS World Snow Day at Canmore Nordic Centre; Winter Carnival Dates TBA. For more information, see 14 Things to Do in Canmore This Winter.
In BRAGG CREEK, be sure to check out The Spirit of Christmas Festival. More info here. There are lots of free family events!
BANFF’s winter festivals include Snow Days – January 13-February 4, 2017; Lake Louise Alpine Ski World Cup, Craft Beer Market, and more. For full details, see Banff-Lake Louise Events.
From January 19-29, 2017, check out the Ice Magic Festival at Lake Louise in Banff National Park. There are free activities at Lake Louise Ski Resort, Deer Lodge, and Chateau Lake Louise. Some highlights of what you can expect follow:
- Skate around an ice castle on world famous Lake Louise. You can even meet and skate with Mother Nature and Old Man Winter! Skate rentals available onsite until 7 pm.
- Skate, ski, walk, and snowshoe on world famous Lake Louise.
- There’s a great toboggan hill behind the Chateau too.
- Watch the International Ice Carving Competition. Tickets required.
|Skating on Lake Louise.|
|Ice Magic Festival, Lake Louise|
Tobogganing aside, snowshoeing is easiest winter activity to learn. Just strap your snowshoes to your winter boots, and head out into the snow. The deeper the snow, the better! Kids as young as two years old can snowshoe, but be prepared to carry or tow them in a sled after a while because snowshoeing is hard work, especially if you’re breaking trail! If you plan on bringing your Chariot, put on the ski attachments for flotation and easy travel. For a unique experience, grab your headlamp and try night snowshoeing! My kids haven’t stopped talking about the full moon snowshoe we did last winter!
Check out Where to Snowshoe Near Calgary for trip ideas.
Some easy snowshoe trails to try include the following:
- Ribbon Creek is pretty, beginner-friendly and has lots of bridges to cross (my kids love it). The trail is 6.6 km return but you can don’t have to snowshoe the whole thing for good views. See more information here.
- Troll Falls and Hay Meadow is short and flat, with a frozen waterfall at the end! We like that it’s a short drive from Calgary and Chariot friendly too. Only 3 km return and virtually flat. You may not need snowshoes if there hasn’t been much snow or the snow has been packed down (it’s a popular trail). If you don’t have snowshoes, bring ice cleats just in case. See this post for an alternate sled/stroller-friendly route to Troll Falls.
- Village Loop at Kananaskis Village is a nice one if you’re staying at the Delta Kananaskis Lodge. Only 2.5 km and rolly. It has a tendency to get packed and icy, so bring ice cleats just in case.
- Hogarth Lakes Loop is another family-friendly snowshoe trail (3.9 km loop, 30 m elevation gain) but a further drive.
- Elkwood Loop Trail is pretty and not too long! 3.4 km, 23 m elevation gain. Snowshoe through the trees to a meadow and Marl Lake, where you get stunning views of Mount Indefatigable.
- Travel tip: Stop at the Peter Lougheed Visitor Centre before or after to warm up or use the washrooms. There’s a microwave and kettle in there if you need to prepare a hot drink or warm up food too!
- Johnson Lake, Banff: Take the flat and pretty trail around the lake (2.8 km), or snowshoe right on the lake once it’s frozen. Chariot friendly. For ice safety tips, please see this post.
- Lake Louise, Banff: Snowshoe across Lake Louise or take the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail (4 km return) to 100 metre high Louise Falls. Both are Chariot friendly. Other options include Fairview Lookout (2 km return, 100 m elevation gain) or the Lake Agnes Trail to Mirror Lake (5.4 km return). Do not go past Mirror Lake as it is avalanche terrain!
- Mount Norquay, Banff: Stoney Squaw Loop Trail and Stoney Squaw Summit Trail (4.2 km round trip) are fun trails that get a lot of snow. Chariot friendly.
- West Bragg Creek: The Snowy Owl Trail is great on a calm day as it’s quite open and gets lots of sun. It parallels the Mountain Road ski trail and is quite flat for the first couple kilometres. Option 1: Make the blue bridge your destination (1.3 km) and turn back for a 2.6 km snowshoe. Option 2: Do a 5.4 km loop by continuing on Snowy Owl 1.8 km past the bridge and returning on Snowy Shortcut, a 1.0 km connector that rejoins Snowy Owl. There is some elevation gain on the section between the bridge and the connector trail, so it may be a bit much for the littlest snowshoers.
|Snowshoeing and babypacking at Troll Falls, Kananaskis|
|Snowshoeing on Johnson Lake, Banff National Park|
|Snowshoeing on Mount Norquay, Banff NP|
|Night snowshoeing at Mosquito Creek, Banff|
3. Cross country (Nordic) skiing
- Calgary: There are over 25 kilometres of groomed cross country ski trails in Calgary. Check out Where to Cross Country Ski in Calgary for more information.
- Canmore Nordic Centre has beautiful groomed trails in a gorgeous setting. There is a fee, but it is well worth it for the quality of the trails and amenities. Onsite rentals are available from TrailSports, but call first to confirm availability or make a reservation. Fatbike rentals are also available! Click here for our trip report!
- West Bragg Creek, Kananaskis: Most of the trails here are rated intermediate (blue), but there are also some short beginner trails: Bunny Loop, Chickadee Loop, part of West Crystal Line. There is a warming hut and washrooms at the parking lot.
- Kananaskis Village: Terrace Trail & Terrace Link make a 2.7 km loop that is great for children. Elevation gain is minimal, you get intermittent panoramic views of the mountains, and you can go in to Delta Kananaskis Lodge or the Village Cafe for a hot beverage, snack, or meal at the end. There is also skating and a Fire and Ice Bar at Kananaskis Lodge! Bill Milne Trail is flat, scenic and perfect for beginners when there’s enough snow.
- Peter Lougheed Provincial Park:
- The easiest trails in Peter Lougheed are around Elkwood Amphitheatre and William Watson Lodge.
- Pocaterra is a good place to try once you can do hills. It has a large warming hut with washrooms near the parking lot. We like skiing to Pocaterra campground and back with the kids (about 5 km return).
- Experienced skiers will enjoy Elk Pass, Blueberry Hill, and Lookout for the views and workout.
- Banff National Park:
- Lake Minnewanka Day Use Area to Upper Bankhead (2.6 km return) has a bit of elevation gain, so is a good option once kids have skied a few times.
- Another option is to tow your kids via towrope, pulk or Chariot as far as you wish through Cascade Valley, then let them ski back to the car (mostly downhill on the return). You can make your day as short or long as you wish; it is 13 km return to the first bridge and 30 km round-trip to Stoney Creek bridge.
- Lake Louise, Banff National Park:
- Ski the Bow River Loop (6.6 km) from the village. It is beautiful and flat!
- For more of our favorite beginner cross country ski trails in Lake Louise, please see this post.
- If you are skiing in a group, do a car shuttle and ski the Tramline Trail (4.8 km). The steady downhill meant my 5 year old could happily ski the whole trail on her own.
- For more challenging trails, try the Pipestone Loops: Pipestone is a fun intermediate level trail that connects to Hector, Merlin and Drummond Trails. Look for old pioneer cabins and take the short detour to beautiful Mud Lake for stunning views of Mount Fairview.
|Bow River Loop, Lake Louise|
|Tramline Trail, Lake Louise|
|Mountain Road, West Bragg Creek|
|Pipestone Loop, Lake Louise|
|XC Skiing Terrace Trail, Kananaskis.|
|Night skiing at Confederation Park / Lion’s Festival of Lights|
|Cross country skiing at Canmore Nordic Centre|
Looking for reasons to love cross country skiing? Check out this post.
4. Canyon Ice Walks
5. Ice Skating
- Banff townsite – on the Bow River, Banff Springs Hotel, Johnson Lake, Cave & Basin, Carrot Creek. For more information, see 8 Memorable Places to Skate in Banff.
- Calgary – Bowness Lagoon, Carburn Ponds, Olympic Plaza, Prince’s Island Park, community rinks. For more information, see Calgary’s Best Outdoor Skating Rinks.
- Canmore – The Pond
- Exshaw – Gap Pond, Lac des Arcs, Grotto Pond
- Kananaskis Village – Pond, rinks
- Lake Louise – Lake Louise
|Ice skating at Bowness Lagoon, Calgary|
|Pond at Kananaskis Village|
|Skating at Rosemont Rinks, Confederation Park, Calgary
Both of our kids have been skiing at Winsport (aka COP) since they were two. With four carpets, two chair lifts, and a snow park, there are several options for those just learning how to ski/board or those who are ready for rails, jumps, moguls and half pipes. We love being able to ski after school or on the weekend for a couple hours without driving far.
About an hour away, Nakiska has reasonable rates, free skiing for kids 6 and under, and great green and easy blue runs for early skiers. There are also more advanced runs and a new tree park for more advanced skiers. We got season’s passes this year and got our money’s worth over Christmas break. My 5 year old is doing blue runs already and can’t get enough! To see why we love Nakiska, see this post.
Mount Norquay is minutes from Banff with fun runs for everyone in the family, a great ski school and tasty on-hill dining. See Fun Family Skiing at Mount Norquay for more information.
See this story for information on Family Season’s Passes at Nakiska & The Big 3 (Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise).
|Sunset skiing at Canada Olympic Park|
|Young skiers may feel more secure in a harness.|
|Skiing at Nakiska.|
|Magic Carpet at COP|
Who doesn’t love tobogganing? Speed, snow, and screams! Just be sure to don a helmet and look out for obstacles before you head down the hill. Sledding is our go-to winter activity when we’re short on time or it’s too cold to spend an afternoon outside. Get a big sled so the kids can share with their friends; the more the merrier! For sledding safety tips, please see this post.
|Tobogganning in Calgary|
Tubing is high-speed fun and offered at four of our local ski hills (Winsport, Nakiska, Norquay, and Lake Louise).
- Tubing at Winsport’s Acura Tube Park – Western Canada’s Biggest Tube Park
- Tubing at Mount Norquay’s Tube Town – Alberta’s Biggest Vertical Drop
If you’re dressed right and having fun, you will keep warm! Have I sold you on fun in the cold yet?
More Winter Fun
- Snow Fun for Everyone
- The Best Ice Walks Near Calgary
- The Best Beginner Cross Country Trails in Lake Louise, Banff
- Playing Safe in Winter: How Cold is Too Cold (Tips to Avoid Hypothermia)
- Tobogganing for Idiots (Sledding Safety Tips)
- Winter Adventuring After Dark
- How To Raise Kids Who Love Winter – Wilderchild.com
- Keeping Kids Warm in Winter
- Ski and Snowboard Gear Guide
For More Information
- Banff National Park Winter Trails www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/skidefond-xcski/banff.aspx
- Cross Country Skiing in Calgary www.calgary.ca/CSPS/Parks/Pages/Locations/Cross-country-skiing.aspx
- 8 Memorable Places to Skate in Banff therealbanff.com/8toskate/
- Lake Louise Winter Trails www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/skidefond-xcski/lakelouise.aspx
- Mount Norquay Snowshoeing winter.banffnorquay.com/snowshoeing/
- Peter Lougheed Provincial Park Ski Trails www.albertaparks.ca/media/2289665/peterlougheednordiccentre_trails_opt.pdf
- West Bragg Creek Snowshoe and Ski Trails albertaparks.ca/media/5826517/kananaskis-west-bragg-creek-trails-south-map.pdf